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Full text of "Theology of Revelation and Faith"

CHAPTER 1 

INTRODUCING THE ISSUES 
STRUCTURES AND DYNAMICS OF REVELATION 

1. The Multitudes Searching for Revelation 

During the life of Jesus, his opponents often asked for signs or revelations from 
heaven to validate his claim to be the Son of God. At present also the quest for heavenly 
revelations fills the field of popular religiosity. People from all walks of life are looking 
for revelations from above for a number of pragmatic reasons, (the parents consult the 
astrologers to study the horoscopes of the prospective couple, the muhurtam, the 
politicians rush to the astrologers to know what the stars foretell about their future or to 
know which would be the most auspicious day and time to file their nominations. Even 
before launching a rocket or a satellite our ultra-modern scientists and technicians do the 
same in the Indian space research centres.) 

Ordinary people go to the palmist or to the parrot - fortune-teller to know the shape 
of their future, (drawing lots or throwing dice, computer astrologers, vastu specialist to 
decide upon the lucky design and location for their house.) People also flock to the 
alleged visionaries who see visions and apparitions from heaven, or utter prophecies from 
God. 

Meanwhile Christianity believes itself to be a revealed religion. The Bible also talks 
about revelation of God through creation, historical events or the signs of the times, 
prophets, worship. Scripture, and above all through the person of Jesus, the Son of God. 

2. Questions for Theology 

It is in this charged atmosphere we want to study the theology of "Revelation and 
Faith." The socio-religious trends make us raise a series of serious faith questions so that 
we may have a clearer understanding about divine revelation, the very foundation of our 
faith. 

Are there revelations of God in our world and history? 

Are they true or false revelations? 

How to assess the authenticity of any revelation? 

Are genuine revelations of God truly possible, given the infinity of God and the finiteness 

of the human being? 

Are they restricted only to a particular religious community or are they common to the 

whole human race and to all religions? 

What do the Bible and Christian theology teach about revelation? 

What can we learn from other religious traditions and from the ordinary people regarding 

the dynamics of divine revelations? 

What is revealed in revelation: A person or some propositions? 

Can we have any full and final revelation in history? 

Is revelation a finished product or an ongoing process? 

What is the role of culture in revelation: does it affect revelation, or affect only the 

expressions of it? 

What are the teachings of the Church on Revelation in the past? Have they been changing 

and developing? Will there be new insights we need to learn about revelation? 



These are some of the questions with which we have to grapple in this course on 
the Theology of Revelation and Faith. 

3 . Meaning of the term' Revelation' 

Our modern, scientific and secular world is rather skeptical about the religious 
notions of revelation. But revelation is one of the fundamental aspects of every theistic 
religion. The English term 'revelation', a derivative of the Latin term revelatio, is a 
translation of the Greek word apocalypsis. (in SyriacJLiI^)Etymologically both 

apocalypsis and revelatio signify the act of unveiling, uncovering, exposing, or 
manifesting something hidden under a veil. When the veil is removed, the hidden 
reality is revealed/unveiled/exposed/manifested. What is hidden could be a person, 
thing, a meaning or a message. In the religious experience of revelation, the hidden 
reality of God and God's will is made manifest. However, the revealing Mystery never 
becomes totally transparent. 

"In common language, even outside a religious context, revelation means a sudden and 
unexpected receipt of knowledge of a profoundly significant character, especially that which gives 
the recipient a new outlook on life and the world. It often designates the free action whereby one 
person confides his inner thoughts and sentiments to another, enabling the latter to enter into his or 
her spiritual world. In theology the term generally denotes the action by which God communicates 
to creatures a participation in His own knowledge, including His intimate self-knowledge. Such a 
communication is SUPERNATURAL since it transcends all that a creature could discover by its 
native powers." Q^e\N Catholic Encyclopedia, Second Edition, Vol. 12, p. 193). 

4. Phenomenological Perspective 

Phenomenologists show that revelation is a common religious phenomenon in all 
theistic religions. The origin of every theistic religion is traced back to the phenomenon 
of a divine revelation and the response given to it by the founding individual, and later by 
the community that follows the founder. Believers of theistic religions understand 
revelation as a conscious experience of the free and loving manifestation of God that 
forms the fundamental object of their faith. 

Phenomenology of religion shows that there are a variety of degrees and manners 
of revelation. In terms of degrees, revelation can be public or private, individual or 
communitarian, normative or optional . In terms of manners, revelation signifies 
pluralism of theophanies such as apparitions, visions, oracles, prophecy, divination, 
inspiration, and so on. Revelation does not stop with the communication of messages. It 
progressively moves towards the revelation of the very person of God, and God's self-gift 
to humanity. This becomes the central idea of revelation in Christianity. Christianity 
identifies many types of revelation. But it sees the culmination of God's revelation in the 
incarnation of the Son of God, his crucifixion, resurrection and the Pentecostal 
outpouring of the Holy Spirit, revealing the ultimacy of God's love in its fullness, and the 
human destiny in its completeness. 

Phenomenologists like Johannes Deninger help us to focus our attention on five 
important characteristics of revelation, common in every theistic religion: 

a) Supernatural source of revelation: God, spirits, ancestors, 

b) Instrument or means of revelation: Sacred signs in nature (the sun, moon, and the 
stars, birds and animals, sacred places, or sacred times (new moon, full moon); dreams, 
vision, and ecstasies; ancestral words (mantras) and texts of sacred books. 



c) Content or object of revelation: Didactic or instructional regarding God's will 
and plan; relational and communitarian revealing the requirements of community life 
and communion with God; mission and ministerial sending on specific tasks. 

d) Recipients or addressees of revelation: Sacred and mysterious persons 
(sorcerers, sacrificing priests, soothsayers, prophets), or ordinary people (Jesus' 
disciples, the visionaries of Marian apparitions). They receive a commission or 
message intended for individuals or groups, for a people or the entire humanity. 

e) Effect and consequence of revelation: Receiving personal instruction or 
persuasion; discerning divine mission; taking a prophetic stand and making critical 
pronouncements, and so on. All this may happen through inspiration or enlightenment 
in the mind and heart (consciousness) of the recipient, through the Indian category of 
avatar (some aspect of the divine being manifest in some visible form, including 
human form, to accomplish the establishment of an aspect of dharma), or through the 
Christian category of incarnation (the divine fully becoming a human person and 
going through all the historical experiences of human existence, except sin). 
Revelation, when received, brings radical change of views and values, and 
transformation of personal identity, personal moods and motivations, committing to 
difficult and daring missions. [Cf Encyclopedia of Religion, Chief Editor: Mircea 
Eliade, V0II2, p.356]. 

5. Revelation is not Magic 

Revelation needs to be distinguished from magic. Magical practices intend to 
have power over the divine. In many of the folk beliefs and practices to know the divine 
plan may have magical overtones of possessing spiritual power to control arid manipulate 
the deity. But revelation stands for the free and autonomous interaction of God with 
humanity, manifesting the mysterious presence of God, which is frightening, but at the 
same time fascinating. Revelation is also perceived as an act of God's self-gift, 
communicating God's gracious will for the healing and wholeness of humankind. The 
special knowledge, message, vision, inspiration, etc., are gratuitous gifts of God, rather 
than the outcome of human power, efforts or manipulations. Revelation preserves the 
distinction between the revealer and the recipient of revelation, the Mystery that reveals 
and the matter that is revealed. 

6. The Relentless Human Quest for the Ultimate Source Needs Revelation 

Revelation can be understood only in the context of the human quest for 
transcendence and ultimate meaning. Even a superficial phenomenological analysis 
reveals that nothing or nobody in creation is self-existing and self-explanatory. Nothing 
or nobody in the world is a necessary and self-sufficient being. Our search for our origin, 
the meaning of our existence and its destiny constantly leads us to something or 
somebody already existing before us as an a priori. As a result we experience our 
existence as a gratuitous gift from another source. 

Each time when we think that we have sighted the final horizon of our origin that 
will explain the ultimate source and origin of our existence, we move towards it with 
excitement. Soon we realize that the horizon has further receded into the unreachable 
distance beckoning us playfully and even seductively. The process of our self 



transcendence can never stop at any point in this universe as the absolutely ultimate 
point. Such an ultimate point eludes our grasp in our existential and empirical world; yet 
it attracts us with irresistible charm and leaves us utterly restless. This unending game of 
hide and seek with the ultimate does not frustrate us or disillusion us. Rather, it inspires 
and energizes us to keep on moving ceaselessly into the unfathomably expanding 
infinite horizon. 

Slowly we realize that we have no way of knowing the ultimate source of our 
origin by our own efforts and search, unless it gratuitously discloses itself to us. But we 
have a hazy pre-knowledge that this ultimate source of our being cannot be an impersonal 
being; but it has to be a personal being. We are personal beings- sovereign subjects, 
capable of intelligence, love, - free will and response-ability. Therefore, we intuit with a 
spiritual certainty that the source that has given us our personal existence also should be 
personal being capable of knowledge and will, love and freedom, but to an infinite 
degree. But we can go only up to this level through our transcendental knowing: we have 
intimation, an intuition, a hypothesis which has some spiritual certainty. But we have no 
absolute certainty: This absolute certainty is possible only when this personal Absolute, 
and Ultimate Source, whom we call God, freely and lovingly reveals the God-self to us, 
in a gracious act of self-giving. 

7. Our Restless Search for Ultimate Plenitude Requires Revelation 

We also arrive at similar conclusion in our quest for ultimate knowledge, 
meaning, and love or the plenitude of life. No finite object or person gives us the ultimate 
satisfaction or the sense of absolute fulfillment. The ultimate knowledge, absolute love, 
or the fullness of life is still out of our reach. So also the absolute joy, happiness, and 
satisfaction are always eluding us. Yet, in the depth of our consciousness we have an 
implicit awareness and a lurking pre-knowledge that there should be such an ultimate 
source that can absolutely satisfy us. We hear its beckoning in every human experience, 
as its ultimate ground and source. Hence our transcendental quest for the ultimate fullness 
- and plenitude never seems to us to be irrational or unreasonable. On the contrary, this 
relentless search for the ultimately meaningful plenitude seems to be an essential aspect 
of being human, and becoming fully human. Without this transcendental quest, we are no 
longer authentically human. The implicit, but irresistible beauty and charm of the 
ultimate does not allow us the luxury to think, at any particular point, that we have 
reached the end of the road, and grasped our ultimate destiny. St. Augustine expressed 
this tension effectively when he said, "0 God, our hearts are created for Thee. They can 
find no rest in anything created unless they rest in Thee. " St. Paul also says that the entire 
cosmos itself is waiting with eager longing, almost groaning in labour pain, to obtain the 
plenitude of freedom and the fullness of the glory of God's children (Rom 8:19-23). 
Finally our hearts know that our alluring transcendental quest and our radical openness 
for ultimate fullness can have the intended satisfaction only through a gracious revelation 
from the Absolutely Loving God. 

8. Revelation: Meeting of Human Quest and Divine Self-Gift 

As we saw above, there is an inner and necessary human drive for the absolute. It 
becomes an absolute quest and ultimate concern for us, though the intensity of the 
consciousness may vary from person to person. This constitutive human quest necessarily 
contains an implicit demand that there be a transcendental absolute 'object' that 



corresponds to this inner and unceasing impulse for ultimacy. But this fact cannot be 
absolutely established merely by our intellectual effort in an a priori way. We need to 
turn to the history of religious experiences to learn how God, the transcendent and 
absolute Reality, has planted this restless quest of the human spirit for absolute being and 
meaning, and how it responds to it. Such a historical analysis leads us to posit a personal 
and universally gracious God who is also restlessly reaching out to all creatures, 
especially humankind endowed with freedom, love and response-ability. The Evangelist 
John defines this personal and gracious God in terms of love: God is love (1 Jn 4:8). We 
hear the declaration of the self-identity of this gracious God in the book of Exodus: "[I 
am] the LORD, the LORD, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in 
steadfast love and faithfulness, keeping love for the thousandth generation, and forgiving 
iniquity and transgression and sin" (Ex 34:6-7). But for God's own gracious self- 
revelation, we cannot arrive at such an intimate understanding of God, either by our 
intellectual or spiritual quests. Otherwise, we shall be chasing only a grand illusion. 

Such a gracious, faithful and personal God is constantly engaged to reach out in 
response to the absolute quest of the human heart for absolute plenitude, with a reciprocal 
absolute loving concern. Actually only God's loving concern enables and empowers the 
human hearts to be engaged in a relentless quest for the absolute. The Evangelist John 
captures this in his first letter: "It is not that we loved God [first], but that God loved us 
and sent His only Son... (1 Jn 4: 10). The Tamil Bhakti poet Manickavasagar declares that 
"We worship the Lord only by his grace. " 

9. God's Indwelling Spirit Guides the Human Quest and Grants Divine Revelation 

God's love or grace is always sufficient and effective (2Cor 12:9). God's creative 
and revelatory words never fail in their mission (Is 55:10-11). Theology, taking the cue 
from the scripture, calls this effective love of God present and active in the whole 
universe and in all people, the Holy Spirit. It is the indwelling personal presence of God 
as a principle of life and the dynamism of the transcendental driving force, a source of 
power and energy, a force that inspires and empowers people to act beyond their normal 
power and capacity. 

10. The Action of the Indwelling Spirit: Searching and Revealing 

Once God has created the human subjects with the capacity for love and freedom, 
God becomes personally present to us as the indwelling Holy Spirit. The Spirit energizes 
us to actualize the God given capacity for absolute transcendence, and for ultimate 
freedom and love. To do this God makes a free self-gift or self-communication to 
humankind. Thus, besides being totally transcendent to the world, God is also immanent 
in the world, especially in the human subjectivity, giving us our ability for absolute 
freedom and love. In the same way God is present to the whole human world and its 
history. This is not an impersonal presence but a personal one. By this personal presence 
God calls human freedom out of itself and beyond itself God engages it in a self- 
transcending movement towards absolute fullness, the absolute being and meaning. The 
gracious presence of the indwelling Spirit within us inspires us and enables us to address 
God abba and to respond in filial love making a joyful self-gift of ourselves. We learn 
this through God's revelation only. Paul records this: "When we cry "Abba! Father!" it is 
that very Spirit bearing witness with our spirit that we are children of God" (Rom 8:15- 
16; Gal 4:6). 



1 1 . Revelation is a Personal and Intimate Encounter 

When we experience this act of God's self-gift and self-presence to the whole 
world, especially within the depth of human subjectivity and consciousness, we 
experience God's revelation or manifestation (self gift) in the form of a personal 
encounter, an event that radically transforms us. This gratuitous gift of the absolute 
Presence experienced within us tends to satisfy our transcendental quest for permanent 
being, fuller meaning in and through an ultimate loving relationship. From our everyday 
experiences we know how the personal encounters lead us to deeper levels of dialogue 
sharing more and more personal information, and finally to greater love and intimacy. In 
the words of poet Thiru Valluvar, the Lover wonders about his immense ignorance of his 
Beloved: "The more I come to know about her, the more I realize the magnitude of my 
ignorance and the enormous necessity to have more knowledge about her" (Thirukural: 
no. 1110). Psalm 139 captures this truth beautifully. 

12. Divine Revelation is Personal, not Propositional 

Such a revelatory experience cannot be reduced merely to receiving some heavenly 
messages, sacred doctrines or dogmatic propositions. As we have already said, revelation 
is a dynamic event of an interpersonal encounter between God and humanity. But this 
revelatory encounter can give birth to doctrinal articulations for the building up of the 
faith community. As such the doctrinal teachings of the Church necessarily form part and 
parcel of the economy of revelation. 

13. Revelatory Experiences are Partial 

We are able to grasp God in every single transcendental experience only partially, 
not absolutely. The moment we think that we have grasped God; God has already 
transcended our grasp to a further horizon, playfully beckoning us to move forward! Thus 
God hides and evades the total grasp in every particular revelatory experience. Such 
revelatory experiences are happening for everybody and everywhere, because "God 
shows no partiality" (Act 10:34). Hence, nobody can claim the privilege of having a 
monopoly over God's revelation, the gracious self-gift of God. Still, each revelatory event 
is effective and sufficient as a sacramental mediation of the salvific love of God. Yet God 
can also choose a particular people to mediate the salvific revelation in a special and 
unique way. It is with this sacramental privilege the Church claims that God has finally 
revealed himself fully and definitively through His Son Jesus Christ (Heb 1:2). But the 
full comprehension of this full revelation in Jesus will always elude the grasp of the 
Church. This makes the Church to be ever earnest in its journey as a co-pilgrim in 
solidarity with other religions and people of good will towards the ultimate fullness. 

14. Active and Passive Dimension of Revelation 

In every revelatory experience there are active and passive dimensions. It is active 
in so far as God makes a gracious self-donation, calling humanity for an intimate 
dialogical relationship with Him. It is passive in so far as God's gracious self-giving is 
gratefully received. In the revelatory event, not only God can be active. Humanity also 
can be active in so far as it receives God's self-gift gratefully in freedom and love as a 
sovereign subject, and responds to it with the same love and freedom, by making a 
reciprocal self-donation to God. 

15. The General Structure of Revelation 

From what we have said so far we can now easily identify the general structure of 



God's revelation. It is operative subjectively in all persons. It is available, by God's grace, 
to every human consciousness. 

Whenever and wherever there is a genuine experience of self transcendence, an 
experience that goes much beyond the experiencing self in search of what is genuinely 
ultimate in life, love, goodness, beauty, and meaning, there is the experience of God. It is 
God who draws human freedom out of and beyond itself in search of ultimate being and 
meaning. When one encounters the presence of this Ultimate Self as a free gift, one feels 
enabled and ennobled to respond to it lovingly with a reciprocal self-gift through self- 
surrender. This means that this assurance of God's revelation is a constitutive dimension 
of everyone's existence as a human subject endowed with freedom and love. For 
Christianity the full revelation of God, the experience of the personal presence of God, comes 
through Jesus Christ. "He is the image of the invisible God... For in him all the fullness of God 
was pleased to dwell, and through him God was pleased to reconcile to Himself all things, 
whether on earth or in heaven..." (Col 1:15, 19). Jesus also said, "The works I do in my Father's 
name testify to me... The Father and I are one" (Jn 10:25, 30). 

16. Revelation and Religious Pluralism 

In our context of religious pluralism we realize that what is normative in every 
revelatory experience is a genuine experience of the transcendence, and the encounter of 
a God who meets our transcendental quest with a loving self-gift. In response we also 
make a reciprocal self-gift in an act of loving surrender. Plurality of religions demands 
plurality of revelatory mediations, each legitimate in its own way, depending on the 
graciousness of God's gift and the originality of human response, inspired and enabled by 
the indwelling Holy Spirit. But each particular revelation, in so far as it is a personal gift 
and grace of God, is sufficient and efficacious in offering people a transcendental call, 
inviting them for a personal encounter and communion, empowering them to respond in 
love and joy. We should say that the Church has come to understand in a more holistic 
way the complex nature of revelation, only in its dialogical relationship with other 
religions. The Second Vatican Council declared that "Religious freedom has its 
foundation in the dignity of the person. .. What is more, this doctrine of freedom has its 
roots in divine revelation, and for this reason Christians are bound to respect it all the 
more conscientiously" (Declaration on Religious Freedom, No. 9). Similarly, in the 
Declaration on the Relationship of the Church to the Non-Christian Religions, Vatican II 
proclaimed: "In her task of fostering unity and love among men, and even among nations, 
she [the Church] gives primary consideration" to her relationship with non-Christian 
religions, "to what human beings have in common and what promotes fellowship among 
them. .. the Catholic Church, therefore, has this exhortation for her [ children]. . . 
acknowledge, preserve, and promote the spiritual and moral goods found among [other 
religions] as well as the values in their society and culture" (Declaration on ... the Non- 
Christian Religions, No.l). 

17. Variety of Revelations 

Though the structure and dynamics of revelation are one always, the ways and the 
processes in which it takes place are many. Basically the difference is to be traced to the 
absolute freedom of the gracious God in revealing Himself Indicating to this absolute 
freedom for choosing when, where, how and to whom He reveals Himself, God said to 
Moses: "I will make all my goodness pass before you. . . I will be gracious to whom I 
will be gracious, and I will show mercy on whom I will show mercy. But, you cannot see 
my face" (Ex 33: 19-20). Each revelatory experience can differ from place to place, age 



to age, religion to religion, and even person to person. God does not follow any strict 
rubrics, and neither can he force us to follow any. Besides, since the human context is 
also pluralistic in its environmental and socio-cultural- historical dimensions, God 
reaches out to each people in a way suited to them. In every particular revelation what 
God told Moses literally takes place. God told Moses, "While my glory passes by ... I will 
cover you with my hand until I have passed by; then I will take away my hand, and you 
shall see my back; but my face shall not be seen" (Ex 33:21-22). But we were privileged 
to see the glory of God's compassion and love in the face of Jesus, God's Son. He is the 
visible image of the invisible God, both in His words and deeds, expressing God's 
ultimate loving concern for humankind. 

18. Historical Revelations are Mediated 

No historical revelation is direct and immediate so as to be called an epiphany, an 
event of total unveiling and a direct experience of encountering the Divine 
transparently. All experiences of revelation, though they happen in the human 
consciousness, are historically mediated through some finite historical medium, that 
serves as the focus of attention or the vehicle for imagination. It could be a person, an 
event, a thing, an idea, imagery, and so on. There is no total transparency of God yet in 
any of the revelatory experience. Still, the revelatory experience seems to be very direct 
and immediate, having an aura of authenticity. Our heart is certain in saying, "I have 
seen the LORD. I have heard Him and touched him." This experience has impacted us 
at the very roots of our being and has effected a radical change in our vision and values, 
feelings and attitudes. None of our affirmation about God can be ultimate. The 
mediating Reality is always less than what is mediated. The mediated is greater than 
what is affirmed and articulated. As none of our historical and existential affirmation of 
God can be absolute, every such affirmation becomes a negation at the same time. God 
is more than what we have affirmed. No historical revelation can ever exhaust God so 
absolutely that we would have the power to make any absolute affirmation. "For we 
now see in a mirror, dimly... .Now I know only in parts" (1 Cor 13:12-13). The Indian 
thinkers have called this apophatic experience as "Neti - Neti" (not this; not that). 

19. Cosmic Revelation 

The Universe or the cosmos is the first self expression of God's goodness and power. So 
nature is a privileged medium of God's revelation. The book, of Genesis shows us God himself 
certifying that the cosmos is good at every stage of its creation, and therefore, capable of 
revealing Him. Psalm 19 proclaims this truth loudly. Similarly Psalm 104 celebrates the 
revelatory capacity of the cosmos. The book of Wisdom takes this discussion a little deeper. 
Using a philosophical language and the methodology of analogy, it says that all could easily 
recognize the power of the cosmos to reveal God. (Wis 13:1-9) 

In the New Testament, St. Paul takes up this argument of cosmic revelation in his letter to the 
Romans. (Roml: 18-23). 

20. Private Revelations and illuminations. 

The Church recognizes two kinds of revelations: public and private. Public 
revelations are also called official or normative revelation. The Church believes that 
whatever is in the scripture and the sacred teachings of the Magisterium contains 
revelatory truths that every believer has to accept in order to be a Christian. Whatever is 
necessary for salvation is abundantly given in these official revelations. But from the 
period of the apostolic Church we see that certain charismatic gifts are given to certain 



individuals, in order to build the community in the fullness of faith and truth (1 Cor 12:7- 
11; 28-30; Rom 12:6-8; Eph 4: 11-13). Gift of prophesy or the gift of speaking in the 
name of God is a significant gift given to the individual to serve the wider community by 
equipping the faithful for their own ministries in building the body of Christ (1 Cor 
12:10; Rom 12:6; Eph 4: 11). The apostles call the faithful to be watchful and discerning 
about these individuals. For overconfidence in these private revelations or charism had 
led in the past to various errors and heresies like Montanism, which gave more 
importance to private revelations than to the teachings of the scripture or of the Church. 
St. John tells his community, "Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to 
see whether they are from God; for many false prophets have gone into the world" (1 Jn 
4: 1). 

When the private revelations and illuminations are not contradicting the 
scriptural and magisterial teachings, but helping people to better understand them and 
practice them, the Church has always accepted their value and approved them as 
genuine. However, the Church is not too eager to accept and approve all revelations. The 
over eager quest for the extraordinary is to be suspected and not to be encouraged. (CCC 
no. 67). 

21. Revelation through the Signs of the Times 

Signs of the Times is a revelatory category that can be traced back to the prophetic 
activities in the Old Testament. The prophets observed and assessed the socio-historical 
trends of their times. They judged whether Israel was faithful or unfaithful to God. Jesus 
also followed the same prophetic approach. He criticized the Pharisees and the Sadducees 
who, rather than reading and interpreting the signs of the times, were asking Jesus to 
show them some magical signs from heaven. He told them, "You know how to interpret 
the appearance of the sky, but you cannot interpret the signs of the times" (Mt 16: 1-3; Lk 
12:54-56). 

The credit goes to Pope John XXIII for using this term as a modern theological 
category in the Bull Humanae Salutis (1961) convening the Second Vatican Council. In it 
he argued that if the Church would look at the world with the eyes of the Risen Lord who 
has not abandoned her, she could see enough indications of light and hope, despite all the 
veritable signs of darkness and hopelessness. Later this phrase was used by Pope John 
XXIII in his Encyclical Pacem in Terris (1963), as the sub-title for three sections (nos. 
29, 126, 142). In these sections the Pope had noted three world trends, significant for the 
mission of the Church: the progressive development of the working classes, the growing 
role of women in public life, and the gradual disappearance of colonialism. Later Vatican 
II also used the phrase signs of the times twice (GS 4; UR 4). 

22. Revelation, Faith and Reason 

Revelation and reason need not be opposing. For a believer acknowledges that God is the 
source of both. If revelation is basically a self-communication of God to humanity, then there can 
be nothing opposing to reason. It is only reasonable that God, who created humankind in His 
image and likeness with reason and intellect, also provides ways and means to satisfy the hunger 
and thirst of reason. Hence, a reason that is animated by faith, and a faith that is enlightened by 
reason, cannot be opposing. They will complement each other in guiding humanity towards 
fullness. 

"Not only can there be no conflict between faith and reason; but they also support each 
other since reason demonstrates the foundations of faith and, illuminated by its light, pursues the 
understanding of divine things, while faith frees and protects reason from errors and provides it 
with manifold insights" (Vatican I, Dei Filius, in Christian Faith, Neuner-Dupuis, No. 135). 



Vatican II also wanted the faithful to recognize the autonomy of faith and reason 
and the harmony that should exist between them. The Council also wanted to steer clear 
between fideism and rationalism The Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern 
World made the following statement: 

"This sacred Synod. .. declares that there are "two orders of knowledge" which are 
distinct, namely, faith and reason. .. "When the human arts and sciences are practised, they use 
their own principles and their proper methods, each in its own domain." Hence, "acknowledging 
this just liberty," this sacred Synod affirms the legitimate autonomy of human culture and 
especially of the sciences" (GS 59). 

The Council wanted to foster a faith that was informed by intellect, but an 
intellect enlightened by the Holy Spirit. (DV 5). (cfr CF No. 164). In his Encyclical Fides et 
Ratio, Pope John Paul II has graphically presented the harmony that exists between faith and 
reason: 

"Faith and reason are like two wings on which the human spirit rises to the 
contemplation of truth; and God has placed in the human heart a desire to know the truth - 
in a word, to know himself— so that, by knowing and loving God, men and women may also 
come to the fullness of truth about themselves (cf. Ex 33:18; Ps 27:8-9; 63:2-3; Jn 14:8; 1 Jn 
3:2; Preamble, Fides et Ratio). 

23. Revelation, Science and Technology 

There were notorious conflicts in the past between the Church authorities and the 
pioneers in modem scientific knowledge. The conflict between Galileo and the Church 
is a classical example. The conflict came because the Church leaders wrongly perceived 
that, the new scientific discoveries contradicted the truths of revelation and the literal 
interpretation of the Scripture. They forgot that the Scripture was meant to reveal the 
truths of faith rather than the truth of science, which operate on the basis of different 
assumptions and methodologies. But now such conflicts have become things of the past. 
Pope John Paul II told the scientists that those conflicts have been overcome "thanks to 
the power of persuasion of science, and thanks above all to the work of a scientific 
theology, which has deepened the understanding of faith and freed it from the 
conditionings of time" (Address to the Scientists, 1980, CF no. 170). 

The new attitude toward science is due to the new insights into the autonomy and 
legitimacy of separate objectives and methodologies of the three truth seeking 
disciplines: Theology, Philosophy and Science. 

a) Religion and theology deal with issues of divine revelation and faith. Theology studies the 
divine reality seeking the ultimate meaning and truth, and its existential implications, using 
theological methodology. In Theology our faith seeks the ultimate truth and, meaning of 
our life, and their existential demands. Therefore, theology's methodology is basically a 
methodology in which our faith is the fundamental moving and motivating force. 
Traditional Theology has identified two moments in its methodological dynamics, 
integrating both faith and reason: Credo ut intelligam (I believe that I may understand), and 
Intelligo ut credam (I understand that I may believe). Theology has its own internal criteria 
to validate its truth claims, in harmony with its faith methodology. 

b) Philosophy is another truth seeking discipline. But it uses the rationalist methodology to 
understand the ultimate truth and meaning of the universe and human existence. It is 
enough for Philosophy if it establishes its truth claims by rational parameters intrinsic to its 
methodology. 



10 



c) Similarly, science also is another important truth seeking discipline serving the good of the 
world and humankind. It has its own strict empirical methodologies and internal criteria of 
validation. This orientation applies to both pure sciences and social and human' sciences. 
Technology is the outcome of applying scientific insights in practical and pragmatic ways. 
We are now living in a time of inter-relations, inter- dependency and inter- 
disciplines. No discipline can function today in splendid isolation, without running the 
risk of missing the whole for the particular. Therefore there is a need for mutual 
respect and open dialogue between science and religion. Both serve humanity from 
different perspectives. But the intended unity between science and religion should not 
be confused into identity or uniformity. Science cannot become religion, and religion 
cannot become science. Religion is not founded on science, nor is science an extension 
of religion. 

"Each should possess its own principles, its patterns of procedures, its diversities of 
interpretation and its own conclusions... Science must bear witness to its own worth. .. Theology 
must be in vital interchange today with science; just it always has been with philosophy and 
other /or»M o/ learning. .. The vitality and significance o/ theology will, in a profound way be 
reflected in its ability to incorporate [the finding o/ science)" (cf Letter to the Director of the 
Vatican Observatory, \ June, 1988). 

Once there was the ill repute that the Church was against science and technology. 
But today, the positions are reversed. At the same time the Church is also prophetic in its 
denunciation o/ science and technology when they ignore their ethical responsibility of 
serving humanity and protecting the cosmos, and function merely on the basis o/ selfish 
serving profit motives, fuelling a culture o/death and destruction. 

24. Conclusion 

As long as the Church is engaged in the Abraham pilgrimage o/ moving towards 
the fullness o/ truth and life, this collaboration among theology, philosophy, and science 
will continue, enriching and ennobling one another. By this alliance, the Church's 
understanding o/ God's revelation and human faith response will be enhanced many fold. 
With this introduction to the Structures and Dynamics q/'Revelation and Faith, we are 
now properly poised to plunge into deeper understanding of Christian Revelation. 

RECOMMENDED READING 

Bea, Augustine Cardinal. The Word of God and Mankind, 1967. 

Dulles, AwQxy. Models of Revelation, 1992. 

Haight, Roger. The Experience and Language of Grace, 1979. 

Latourelle, Rene. Theology of Revelation with Commentary on the Constitution "Dei 

Verbum, " 1966. 

Neuner, Joseph. Ed., The Meaning of Revelation, 1967. 

O'ColIins, Gerald, Foundations of Theology, 1970. 

Rahner, Karl. Hearers of the Word, 1969. 

Ratzinger, Joseph. "Dogmatic Constitution on Divine Revelation, "in Ed., Herbert 

Vorgrimmler, Commentary on the Documents of Vatican II, Vol. Ill, pp. 155-198, I960. 

Schillebeeckx, Edward. Revelation and Theology, 1967. 

Shorter, Aylward. Revelation and its Interpretation, 1983. 



II 



CHAPTER II 
UNDERSTANDING OF CHRISTIAN REVELATION 

1. Biblical Understanding of Revelation 

The Holy Scriptures do not give us the terminology for revelation in a systematic 
way. The Bible is more interested in the fact of revelation than in the notion of revelation. 
When the Bible speaks of revelation, quite often what, is intended is God the Creator 
actively disclosing to human beings His power and glory. His plan and will, in short. 
Himself in relationship to the human beings and human history. From the standpoint of 
its contents divine revelation is both indicative and imperative (Ex. 20: 20-23; Dt 4: 13) 
and in each respect normative. God's disclosures are made in the context of demand for 
trust in and obedience to, what is revealed - a response, which is wholly controlled by the 
contents of revelation itself In other words God's revelation comes to us not as 
information without obligation, but as a mandatory rule of faith and conduct (Dt 29: 29). 

Revelation has two focal points: God's purpose of offering salvation. His plan of 
intervening in human history in order to realize this salvation (Gen. 6: 13-21; 17:15-21; 
15: 3-21; Eph. 3: 3-11) and the response of human beings to this offer and plan (Gen.l2: 
Iff; Eph 1: 9ff). The result of this offer and response is salvation (2 Tim. 3:15; 1 Cor 
10: 1 1; Rom 15: 4). The fallen human beings need this revelation for their salvation (Rom 
2: 14). 

We hardly find the noun 'revelation' in the Old Testament. The common form in 
which the term is found is the 'verbal form' (cfr. Gen. 35:7; Num 12: 6; 23:4,16; Amos 7: 
1,4,7; Is 2: 3; Jer \:4). This is perfectly in accordance with the Hebrew mentality which 
gives little importance to abstract nouns; it focuses rather on the verb: the Israelite looks 
chiefly at what goes on, what is happening. This is also due to another aspect of the 
religious mentality of the Jews; for them life was possible only because of divine 
intervention. True to this notion of life, revelation in the O.T. is not registered as a noun, 
but described by verbs. The verbs which they commonly use, namely, to disclose, to 
announce, to present something clearly to some one indicate acts of personal 
relationships. Thus revelation, is presented as God approaching the human beings in a 
personal manner in order to enter into personal relationship with them. This is expressed 
in the Old Testament as making known His name to Israel (Ex. 3:11- 15) and entering 
into a Covenant with them {Gen. 17: Iff; Ex. 19:3-8). At the same time His uniqueness 
and His holiness. His majesty and freedom remain intact and supreme. 

In the New Testament which is the fulfillment of the Old Testament, revelation 
consists in making known the Kingdom of God to the disciples of Christ and through 
them to the rest of humankind (Mt 13:10-11). The one God of the Old Testament is 
revealed as the Triune God (Eph 1: 3-14; Rom 8:14-17. This God speaks to humanity in 
and through Christ (Heb 1: Iff). Jesus by his life and ministry reveals this God (John 1: 
18; 14:7-11) His life is the perfect revelation of God (2 Cor 4: 4; Col 1:15; Heb 1, 3). The 
New Testament revelation is the unfolding of God's plan through Christ (1 Cor 7-10; Col 
l:19ff). The effect of this revelation is the fellowship of the human persons with the 
Triune God and among themselves (1 John 1: 1-5). The final stage of this revelation will 
be realized at the Parousia when Christ will manifest himself as the Lord of the new earth 
and new heaven (Rev 21 & 22). 



12 



2. Revelation in the Patristic Theology 

In most of the early theologians there is no systematic doctrine of revelation. 
Although the word appears here and there, it is rarely used with the technical meaning it 
has acquired in modern theology. Our purpose in the study of revelation theology in this 
period is not to give a complete and exhaustive survey of the teaching of the Fathers in 
this matter, but merely to present certain key points that are especially significant for the 
subsequent history of theology. 

A. FACTORS THAT INFLUENCED THE UNDERSTANDING OF 
REVELATION IN THE EARLY CHURCH 

Theology being a reflection on the faith of a community (i.e. a community that 
encounters God in its need for salvation), the theological method will change according 
to the mentalities and needs of the various communities. The variety in the method will 
necessarily give us concepts that are different. This is true also of revelation. In our study 
of the Fathers and of the theological tradition it is very important to keep this fact in the 
mind. We can notice the following factors that influenced the development of the 
theology of revelation during the first four centuries. 

The first Christians were under the impact of the great manifestation of God in 
Christ. We find that this impact had its repercussions on their writings. Secondly they 
developed a revelation theology that sought to establish that Jesus had fulfilled the Old 
Testament prophecies and was therefore the Messiah. Thirdly, against the pagans they 
tried to prove that Christ fulfilled and surpassed the wisdom and piety contained in pagan 
philosophy and religion. Fourthly, they had to face heretical movements in the Church 
itself, which dangerously deviated from the true concept of revelation. These are some of 
them: 

a) Gnosticism: It was fundamentally an attack on the mainstream Christian view of 
revelation. It endeavored to create a Christianity, which was fitting into the culture of the 
time, which would absorb the religious philosophy of the Greeks, to leave but a small 
place for revelation as the foundation of all theological knowledge, for faith and for the 
Gospel of Jesus Christ (Johannes Quasten, Patrology I, 254). They looked upon Jesus as 
a teacher sent from heaven to deliver a body of saving doctrines for the salvation of those 
who had within them a spark of the divine spiritual substance. 

h)Marcionism: The creator-god of the Old Testament was a mere demiurge. They would 
therefore, repudiate the entire Old Testament revelation. 

c) Manichesim: They looked upon the material world as a prison of darkness and sought 
by various practices to escape into the spiritual realm of light. These, therefore, do not 
accept revelation through the signs of nature and history. 

d) Montanists: The fullness of Spirit, they claimed, had not been communicated through 
Christ and the Apostles, but only through Montanus and his companions, in whom the 
final age of the activity of the Holy Spirit was beginning to dawn. 

e) Eunomists: God can be perfectly known by human mind. 



13 



B. SYRIAC FATHERS 

The Syriac understanding of divine revelation is rooted in the experiences and 
events of the history of salvation that are clearly depicted in the biblical exposition of 
salvific events of history. The experiences and events of the biblical history of salvation 
are basically governed by the divine mercy that creates, sustains and nurtures everything 
to attain perfection. The notion of the understanding of divine realities is, from the visible 
to the invisible, from the accessible to the inaccessible, from the easy one to the difficult 
one, and the like (St. Ephrem On Faith 76:11-13; 80:8). The mysterious power and 
activity of the divinity/creator inhabits in the creatures. Thus divine power holds up, 
sustains and guides the creatures as the soul holds up the body (Mar Jacob Sarugensis, 
Homiliae Selectae Vols I-V) or as the intellect inhabits in a human being (HS IV 556, 4- 
5; 557, 1-2). As a sequel to this the Son came to inhabit/incarnate in the human 
body/person (HS II 517, 19-518, 3; Letters of Jacob of Serugh, Ep ,XIX 113,12-13) that 
was created for its glorification. The mysteries of creation and incarnation are 
proclaiming the immanence and transcendence of the divinity with regard to the created 
world (HS II 210, 3), especially to humanity. Following the Semitic mode of perception, 
as explicit in the Bible, Syriac theological vision of revelation is symbolic, narrative and 
biblical. 

1 . Divine Self-revelation in the Syriac Understanding 

There is an essential difference between divinity and humanity, divine and human 
realms. St. Ephrem describes this in terms of an ontological gap, a 'chasm' between the 
creator and the creatures. "What creature can search the Godhead? There is a chasm 
between it and the Creator. It is love that rules in between them" (On Faith 69: 11, 12; cf 
Lk 16:26). Precisely it means, 'What is made cannot reach its Maker' (On Faith 30:2). 
Hence, created beings, by their own powers alone, are basically incapable of knowing 
God. Ephrem explains this by the natural analogy of the burning sun. The all surpassing 
and inexplorable nature of God and divine matters are like the burning sun that cannot be 
looked into by human eyes or approached by humans (On Faith 26:5). If approached, 
humans would perish and it amounts to self annihilation. Any created intellect cannot 
contain the Creator. Hence, if any creature attempts to investigate ('aqqeb .^osj and 
conquer so as to contain the whole of the creator would be against the nature of a 
creature. Such acts amount to 'prying into' God's nature (On Faith 9:16). But God, on 
account of his merciful initiative crossed over from this side of the 'chasm' to the human 
side and revealed Himself to humanity for the salvation of the whole created world. 
According to Ephrem whatever is revealed can be put under intellectual inquiry and it is 
reasonable and legitimate; but, going beyond that would be an outrage against divinity 
and unbecoming to human nature. 

a) The Hidden and the Revealed 

On account of the human finitude, divinity and divine realities are 'hidden' to 
humanity in human perspective, unless God reveals himself to humanity. But the divine 
mercy that creates sustains and nurtures everything, lovingly engages itself with all 
creatures; especially with humanity in a relational manner. The consciousness and 
experience of the divine relational engagement in human history is well depicted in the 
biblical history of salvation. On account of this dialogical relationship with the divinity, 
all created realities assume a symbolic power of signifying and proclaiming the creative 
force of the divine power/Word inherent in them. This factor is precisely the sacramental 
power of the creatures. So St. Ephrem states: 



14 



In every place, if you look, His symbol is there. 

And when you read, you will find His types. 

For by him were created all creatures. 

And He engraved His symbols upon His possessions. 

When he created the world. 

He gazed at it and adorned it with His images. 

Streams of his symbols opened, flowed and poured forth His symbols on His members 

(On Virginity 20: 12). 

What God had revealed about Himself through symbols and types are only what is 
needed for humanity to arrive at the knowledge of divine realities for salvation. Hence, 
the sum total of what is revealed, if put together, cannot depict the whole of divinity. 
Only what is revealed of God can be experienced and understood by human intellect and 
heart. However, God in his mercy has given glimpses of his hidden being and hidden 
plan through symbols and types. Only such glimpses can mediate b^ptween the infinite 
unknowable and the finite intelligence. They are not proper (galyuto lloi^) or instances 
of total divine manifestation, but pointers to some higher divine realities that will be 
revealed in due course of God's progressive self-revelation. This progressive self- 
revelation is according to the "rate of the comprehensive capacity of the human race. 
Looking from the human side it is according to the progressive way of salvation. So 
Ephrem writes: 

For the sake of the fruit he laid the Way 

Which runs from the Tree right to the Cross? 

It extended from the Wood to the Wood 

And from Eden to Zion, 

From Zion to Holy Church 

And from the Church to the Kingdom 
(Against Heresies 26:4) 

The mysteries revealed, through the types and symbols by the mercy of God, retain 
their mysterious nature even in revelation. Through revelation the mystery is made 
tangible in a participatory manner to anyone who accepts the revelation in faith. As the 
revelation is through the divine mercy the acceptance of revelation in faith also has to be 
by a loving relational approach. It is because mystery cannot be conquered from outside, 
but can be participated only subjectively through the loving relationship and submission 
in faith to the mystery. 

b) Two Witnesses and Three Harps of Divinity 

^ According to Ephrem the natural world (kyono JLilaj and the scriptures (ktobo 
JLsJ^o) are two witnesses to God and his activities. They are the two channels of divine 
self-revelation. These two sources, in effect, did the preparation for the culminating 
divine self-revelation in the incarnate mystery of the Son. In fact God prepared all 
peoples, the Jewish people through Torah (the scriptural law) and the gentile peoples 
through the nature (natural law) for the new covenant. Once Nature and Scriptures had 
cleansed the land, the new commandments have been given in the new covenant (cf. 
Against Heresies, 28: II) in Christ. The two Testaments are considered the two harps in 
the right and left hands of the Son, the Redeemer. Together with them he had the third 
harp, the nature, as a middle one, bearing witness to the other two manifesting that he is playing 
with all the three harps as the Lord of the universe (On Virginity 29: 1). 



15 



c) Unity of Revelation and the Scriptures 

Prophecy (OT) and apostolic preaching (NT) form a continuum. Even the present 
day preaching in the Church is part of the apostolic preaching. This, in other words, 
means the unity and organic relationship between the Old and. New Testaments. Even 
though they are at two stages, they diffuse the same message. The basic reason is that the 
same Spirit inspires and fills the scriptures as a whole and teaches the same mystery. 
Jacob of Serugh explains that as one drinks from the four rivers of Eden in the Old, the 
same four rivers are seen in the Evangelists of the New (HS III 653, 9-12). Christ is the 
author of both orders: the Law and the Gospel as well as the mediator of both. Other 
images of unity of the scriptures from Jacob of Serugh are: Christ is the body and the 
two covenants are his hands. The two testaments are like two links of a chain that 
interlock perfectly. The two testaments form a single house which has a floor 
(foundation), the Old Testament, and a roof which is the New Testament. The inter- 
testamental unity is clarified by the analogy of body and soul, in which Scriptures form a 
single body of which Christ is the soul. This vision naturally focuses on the 
Christocentric vision where Christ unifies and perfects the whole of salvation history, 
already actualized, yet in progress. Christ is the source, meaning, efficacy and the final 
goal of all salvific symbols of both nature and scripture. He is the 'Lord of symbols' and 
'Sea of symbols'. The whole of the Old Testament with its symbols of the kings, priests 
and prophets, was pouring into Christ, the 'Sea of symbols'. Hence, Ephrem writes: 

Therefore, the sea is Christ who is able to receive 

The sources and springs and rivers and streams 

That flow forth from within scripture (On Virginity 9: 12). 

For it is Christ who perfects its symbols by his Cross, 

Its types by his body, its adornments by his beauty. 

And all of it by all of him! (On virginity 9: 15). 

2. Progressive Divine Self-revelation for Salvation 

According to the Syriac Fathers, championed by Ephrem, the progressive self- 
revelation of God to humanity has three developmental stages. These three stages are 
explained by the clothing imagery. 

a) Clothing in Symbols and types 

Divinity clothing himself in the garment of symbols and types: Natural world and 
the scriptures are the two witnesses of God. Symbols of nature and types of the 
Scripture are revealing divine mysteries to the world. Ephrem clarifies: 
In his book Moses described the creation of the natural world, so that both Nature and 
Scripture might bear witness to the Creator: Nature through man's use of it. Scripture, 
through his reading of it. These are the witnesses which reach everywhere. They are to be 
found at all times, present at every hour. Confuting the unbeliever who defames the 
Creator (On Paradise 5:2). 

Symbols and types are mysteries (roze h'i) that contain and point to divine 
realities, the truth (shroro ]\-^ as Ephrem finds. The divine mysteries (roze) revealed 
through symbols and types indicate the connection between two different modes of 



16 



realities, the two worlds of divine and human realms. The power and functions of 
symbols and types are well explained by Sebastian Brock: 

Types and symbols are a means of expressing relationships and 
connections, of instilling meaning into everything. They operate in several 
different ways, between the Old Testament and the New, between this 
world and the heavenly, between the New Testament and the Sacraments, 
between the Sacraments and the eschaton. In every case they 'reveal' 
something of what is otherwise 'hidden' (S. Brock, St. Ephrem the Syrian, 
Hymns on Paradise, 102-3). 

Symbols and types, while indicating what is revealed in a symbolic manner, point 
to the signified reality that would be fully achieved in the eschaton. The divine hand in 
creation and that in the history of the created world progressing according to the biblical 
vision of history provides the sacramentality of the created world and the sacramental 
world-vision. Faith is the medium for the grasping of this world- vision and it enables one 
to understand and submit oneself to the creative power and the salvific purpose of the 
divinity that is fully active in the nature and in history. 

b) Clothing in Names and Words 

Divinity clothing himself fin the garment of names/words: What is here relevant is 
Ephrem's theology of Divine Names. Divinity in revealing himself came down to human 
terms and nature, in order to make Himself known to humanity. Ephrem writes: 

We should realize that, had He not put on the names of such 
things. It would not have been possible for Him to speak with us humans. 
By means of what belongs to us did he draw close to us: He clothed 
Himself in our language, so that He might clothe us in His mode of life. 
He asked for our form and put this on. And then, as a father with His 
children. He spoke with our childish state. (On Faith 31:2). 

Divinity assuming human names such as Father, Son, Creator, Being, are 'perfect 
names' as to the nature of God and other names such as, king, commander, shepherd, 
wine, and so on are 'borrowed names' indicating only some aspects of the divinity. All 
these show the divine descent into human language in revelation so as to draw humans to 
the divinity. Ephrem concludes his theology of divine human relationship through names 
in revelation as, "He gave us His names, he received from us our names; His names did 
not make Him any the greater, whereas our names made Him small" (On Faith5:7) 

C Clothing in Flesh and Incarnation 

Divinity clothing himself in the flesh and the nature of humanity in the mystery of 
incarnation: Divinity when clothed in human nature became tangible to all human 
beings. This clothing imagery in incarnation extends to the death and resurrection and the 
Eucharistic presence of the Lord to all, at all times and places. The whole dispensation of 
revelation and salvation has its source, medium and goal in the human body of Christ. 
The same physical body that healed the sick and blessed all, while he was corporeally 



17 



present in the world is being offered now to all who approach him in sacraments, 
especially in the Eucharist. There is perfect unity and continuity between Christ's 
physical body and his Eucharistic body, his mystical body, the Church, and the individual 
Christians. All these are clothings on the road of salvation. All these clothings are for the 
needed cures, rectifications, healings and perfections aimed by God. Hence, Ephrem 
comments that as the leaven works silently but powerfully in the mass of dough, Christ's 
body works in the human race: "As the leaven in the mass of dough, so too is his body in 
the mass of the house of Adam" (Commentary of Diatessaron XI, 21). 

The different garments of revelation and salvation have been put on in the saving 
plan of God. The healing and saving mystery of the incarnate body of Christ is 
illuminated by Ephrem in the background of the blind man healed by the spittle in Jn 9:6. 
So Ephrem writes: 

Thy garment. Lord, is a fountain of healing; 

In thy visible dress dwells thy hidden power. 

A little spittle from thy mouth was a mighty wonder. 

For light was in the clay it made. . 

In thy bread is hidden a Spirit not to be eaten, . 

In thy wine dwells a fire not to be drunk. 

Spirit in thy bread, fire in thy wine, 

A wonder set apart, received by our lips (On Faith 10:7). 

By these three modes of clothing Divinity related and revealed himself to humanity for 
the salvation of the whole creation through humanity with a double meaning; through the 
humanity of the incarnate Son and that of each human person with the human activity in 
the world. In this last part, based on human activity, the Church and human communities 
are in the focus through their 'garment of witnessing' by the acts of living faith. As a 
fourth stage the Church has to be clothed in the 'garment of witnessing' to the salvific 
mystery of Christ, her Bridegroom, in the world. 

3. The Realities and Goals of Divine Self-revelation 

God reveals himself because of his loving kindness and mercy. It is an act of 
loving condescension. Ephrem explains: 

Who will not give thanks to the Hidden One, most hidden of all. 
Who came to open revelation, most open of all. 
For He put on a body, and other bodies felt Him 
Though minds never grasped Him (On Faith 19:7). 

What God reveals about Himself is only as far as what is necessary for humanity 
to arrive at the knowledge of divine realities for attaining salvation. Understanding of 
divine realities is proportionate to the divine-human engagements. Whatever is not 
revealed remains ever hidden. Hence, in the divine-human relational engagement the 
transcendence and immanence o/God are basic factors and they are felt by human nature 
in the tension between the hidden and revealed factors o/the divinity. In other words God is 
hidden and revealed at the same time. This hidden and revealed nature o/God provides objective 



and subjective realms o/ human understanding o/God. Whatever is revealed can be put under 
human intellectual and scientific inquiry in an objective manner. As the human experiences of 
God and divine-human engagements grow, humanity will be given proportionate experience of 
the hidden divine aspects through the signs, symbols and types that are sacramentally pointing to 
the divine realities. At such a level the source o/ divine revelation for human divinization and 
salvation is the subjective level o/mystical silence and submission in faith. 

The progressive self-revelation of God is primarily a divine initiative out of divine 
mercy. But humanity has to respond to this loving initiative o/ divinity in a responsive 
love. This factor is well emphasized and illustrated by Ephrem through different 
imageries. The first one is the human physical eye and its power o/ seeing. Even though 
our physical eye is powerful enough to see, it cannot see anything in the darkness. It 
needs first some light from the object to fall into it before it starts seeing properly (cf On 
Faith 25: 5, 6). This, in other words, means that at first revelation has to be offered by 
the divinity to make us see by faith. Only with the light o/ revelation we can .see and 
believe. The second image is that o/ human words and writing. Even though our human 
tongue/mouth and hand are physically fit for speaking and writing, we first need the 
learning of the alphabets and words as an input for starting to speak and write (cf On 
Faith 25: 4). Similarly, we need initial divine self-revelation for us to believe and act 
accordingly. The third imagery is that of human swimming. Even // our body is 
physically fit for swimming, we cannot swim in the vacuum. The presence o/ water is 
necessary for swimming as a support to the body/person who is swimming {On Faith 25: 
8, 9). Similarly, divine revelation has to reach humans first in order to start believing and 
acting. These three imageries clearly express the need of initial divine initiative, divine 
grace, and at the same time the needed human response in faith. 

The goal o/ divine self- revelation is faith and salvation. The divine self- revelation 
through symbols and types, divine names, and through the Incarnation are proclaiming 
the same truth in different levels o/its manifestation. It is faith that gives the unified 
understanding and acceptance o/the same truth running through all the stages o/ divine 
self-manifestation. This understanding is the salvific synchronic understanding o/the 
truth o/the history o/ salvation regarding the past, present and about the ages to come. 
The 'eye o/ faith' can attain such a synchronic vision o/the complementarity between 
the 'first Adam' and the 'Second Adam', Christ; between the two covenants; between 
symbols and types towards their fulfillment in Christ, etc. One best example o/such a 
synchronic vision is supplied by the Syriac exegesis o/the 'pierced side o/Christ' on the 
cross: "But one o/the soldiers pierced his side with a spear, and at once there came out 
blood and water" (In 19:34). Here the important factors are the 'pierced side', the spear 
(lance) and the 'issuing o/blood and water'. A net work o/ typological significations can 
be composed. Adam was given shape from the side of the virgin earth. Eve was carved 
from the side o/Adam. From Eve the cause o/ slavery and death came out. But from the 
pierced side of Christ blood, signifying the Eucharistic blood, and water, signifying 
baptism, came out. It is this Baptism and Eucharist that give birth and nurture the 
children o/the Church, the mystical body o/ Christ. Hence, /"om Adam's side came Eve 
and death. But from the side of Christ came the Church and life. Thus by a salvific 
synchronic understanding o/this particular episode illumines the inherent relationship 
between the created world, Adam, Christ, Church and the individual Christians. Such 
networks of salvific realities can be comprehended only by the 'eye of faith'. Divine 
revelation aims at such enriched faith. 



19 



THE GREEK FATHERS 

The early Fathers began to develop the Catholic doctrine of revelation on the basis of 
Scripture and Church tradition; but at the same they had to meet the situation created by the 
above-mentioned doctrinal and cultural currents. As a consequence the understanding of 
Revelation had necessarily to undergo a change. The main elements that constituted the theology 
of revelation are the following: 

a) Revelation understood in terms of a reasonable doctrine. 

This is the position of Justin. Being a philosopher he tries to show the 
reasonableness of Christianity to the pagans. He also tried to meet them in their field 
through the doctrine of the Logos. This also helped him to prevent loosing whatever was 
true in the Gnostic position. He speaks of the Logos as the revelation of God as well as 
the revealer of God. Under the former aspect he is the one through whom God creates the 
world. As revealer, he acts in the history of the Jewish people especially through the 
prophets. The human beings share in the Divine Logos. In every person there is a seed, 'a 
germ of the Logos'. The wisdom of the philosophers is the participation in the Logos who 
was to become man in Jesus Christ. All who live by reason therefore, are in some sense 
Christians (1 Apol. 46); but those who are ignorant of the Incarnate Word, have only a 
partial knowledge and. therefore fall into many contradictions (2 Apol. 8, 10). 

b) Historicity of revelation explained by showing the continuity of the O.T historical 
revelation in the N.T. with Christ as the recapitulation. Irenaeus is the defender of this 
position against the Gnostics. God in his view, gradually through the eternal Logos, 
prepares human beings by stages to receive the 'solid food of Christian revelation'. He 
recognizes three distinct testaments prior to Christ: those of Adam, Noah, and Moses. In 
the fourth testament, as he calls it, the divine Word himself becomes visible, appearing in 
the flesh and bringing to a head in his own person the religious history of mankind (Adv. 
Haer. IV, 9, 1; 34, 1; 36, 1). After the ascension, Christ's visibility is perpetuated in the 
Church. He, therefore, affirms the unity of the Old and the New Testament, but the 
uniqueness of the New Testament cannot be overlooked because, while the Old 
Testament is only a promise, the New Testament is realization, accomplishment, and the 
gift of the Incarnate Word (Adv. Haer IV, 34). 

c) Revelation is the fulfillment of the universal aspiration of mankind. Clement of 
Alexandria recognizes three great testaments: Pagan philosophy, the Jewish Law, and 
the Christian Gospel. All three derive from the one and the same Logos. Just as the 
Law prepared the Hebrews to accept the teaching of Christ, so philosophy educated the 
Greeks, predisposing them better to receive the good news of the Gospel (Strom. VII, 
5, 5). Not only among the Hebrews but also among the Greeks likewise, God stirred up 
prophets (Strom. VI, 42, 3; 110, 3; 153, 1). Christians have the advantage both over the 
Greeks and the Jews because they acknowledge as their teacher in Christ the Incarnate 
Logos himself, who illumines the believing soul with his own light (Protr. 68, 4). 



20 



d) Revelation is the manifestation of God who is incomprehensible for human beings. 
The Capadocian Fathers, especially Basil the Great and Gregory of Nyssa dwelt on 
the divine incomprehensibility in a way that contributed permanently to the Christian 
theology of the mystery. St. John Chrysostom also gave his contribution to the 
understanding of revelation, as mystery-filled, by his famous homilies 'On the 
incomprehensibility of God' which are remarkable for their vivid description of human 
being's sense of the holy at the approach of the divine. But God in his condescension 
accommodates Himself to the weakness of His creatures. 

We notice here already a change from the biblical understanding of revelation. From 
personalism there is a movement towards intellectualism; from the historical 
particularism to a wider universalism and finally from a close personal experience to a 
mysterious transcendentalism. These will leave deep impressions on subsequent 
theology. 

D. LATIN FATHERS 

We shall speak here o/Tertullian and o/St. Augustine as the two representatives 
o/'the Latin fathers. Tertullian considers Christianity as truth and paganism as error. The 
truths that are found in pagan philosophy are the fruits o/ borrowings /rom the Old and 
the New Testaments. He admits two sources of the knowledge of God: from created 
nature and spontaneous testimony of the soul. But this knowledge is imperfect and mixed 
with error. Revelation and specially revelation in the New Testament is without any error. 
God sent His Son, 'the Light and Guide of our human race, who brought us all truth 
(Apolog. 21, 7). Christ communicated these truths to his Apostles. He taught them all the 
truth either personally or through the Spirit. There are no other mediators of revelation 
besides the apostles; hence with them the action of revelation is terminated (De Prescript. 
35, 3-4). The main concern of Tertullian is not about whether there is a Christian 
revelation or about its content, but where it is to be found and how it is to be got. His 
answer to this problem is the following: Christ is the source of truth; he hands it down to 
the apostles. They are its mediators; the apostles hand it down to the Churches founded 
by them. They are its depositary; the apostolic Churches are the receptacle of this 
tradition; to learn the truth we need only to ask them (Adv. Marc. 1, 21). With this 
position, we must admit that Tertullian reduces revelation to a collection of truths. 

In Augustine the western patristic tradition reaches its highest peak. He combined a 
vigorous speculative intellect with a deep introspective piety. Hence the two extreme 
positions in revelation theology, namely, revelation as an exclusively intellectual reality 
or as an exclusively emotional experience is to a certain extent eliminated in his position. 
Augustine makes use of the Johannine terminology in his theology of revelation. Christ is 
the centre of all revelation. He distinguishes three stages in the revelatory activity of God. 
From Adam until Moses, Old and the New Testaments were hidden. In the time of 
Moses, Old Covenant was made manifest, and in it was hidden the New. Finally, when 
Christ came, the New Covenant was openly revealed (De Civitate Dei XI, 3). 

With regard to the term 'revelation', Augustine uses it at times for extraordinary 
manifestation such as the visions and ecstasies of which one reads in the Holy Scriptures. 
These revelations, he says, could be merely sensory (and thus imperfect) or intellectual 
(in which case they were perfect)'. 
Augustine also uses the term 'revelation' more widely to designate any divine 



21 



illumination, which comes to the mind through prayerful study and consideration of things 
obscurely known (De Gratia Christi 1, 10, 1; 14, 15). 

In the light of these two uses of the term we may construct a theology of revelation 
according to Augustine. It is not the mere abstract communication of truth. It is the 
communication of truth accompanied by divine illumination. God is not only the truth, 
but He is also the light by which truth is known. That is why Augustine, 'while speaking 
of Christ as revelation uses the Johannine terms of 'Way, Truth, Light and Life'. It is for 
this reason that we say for Augustine revelation is not so much the external 
communication of the gospels as the inner light by which persons are enabled to believe 
it. In his famous work The City of God Augustine says that the preacher would herald the 
Gospel in vain unless God were to open the hearts of the hearers. "If He does not rule and 
guide the mind by His interior grace, no preaching of truth will profit a man" (De Civit. 
Dei 15,6) 

The contribution of Augustine to the understanding of revelation consists in his 
insistence on the divine action in the revelatory event. This is not only historical, 
communitarian in experience, but also personal to each one. In revelation the Holy Spirit 
works not only in the historical events, but also in the one who receives the revelation. 
This is an important element because here we have a deeper understanding of what 
revelation means as an event of personal experience. 

3. Revelation in Scholastic Theology 

The term 'revelation' in most of the medieval theologians continues to be used as in 
St. Augustine, to designate any kind of divine illumination, including what we should 
now regard as falling within the ambit of purely natural knowledge. This is the position 
of Scotus Erigena (810-877) who affirms that only under the guidance of faith does 
reason fully come into its own and Anselm of Canterbury (1033-1109) who gave the 
famous formula 'Credo ut intelligam' (I believe that I may understand). Only in the high 
Scholasticism of the thirteenth century does 'revelation' (A. Dulles, Revelation Theology 
pg. 38) become restricted to strictly supernatural knowledge. 

Basing themselves on the Augustinian theory of illumination, the scholastics 
distinguish two types of enlightenment of the human mind. One is the divine 
illumination: this is called supernatural revelation and the effect of this is to make the 
human persons accept truth on the authority of God: this is called faith. The other is the 
inner light of human reason: this is called natural revelation and the effect of this is to 
make the human persons accept truth because of its 1 reasonableness: this is called 
natural knowledge. The main authors of this theology of Revelation are: 

a) St. Bonaventure who develops the theory of inner illumination by God and 
makes almost no distinction between inspiration and revelation. 

b) St. Thomas. He too, holds that a divinely infused light is needed to adhere to 
the truth, but unlike most of the Augustinians, he does not normally use the term 
'revelation' to designate this interior illumination. Thus the idea of revelation, in St. 
Thomas, becomes more objectified than in Augustine and his school (C.G. L, I, c.4). 

The objectifi cation of revelation took place through the stages of history: before the 
Law to Abraham, in the form of promise; under the Law to Moses, in the form of the 
Covenant and in the form of grace to the Apostles through the teachings of Christ (S.Th 2a 



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2ae, q.l74, a. 6, c). This however is not to be restricted merely to the propositions, but to the 
whole revelatory event. For, St. Thomas the truths of revelation are above the possibility of 
any demonstrative proof for their validity. Hence they need external signs, such as miracles 
and prophecies for their confirmation. This is the divine seal which attests the divine origin of 
the doctrine he preaches. God authenticates the message not only with the external activities of 
miracles, but also His grace is active within the listeners producing in them the conviction 
regarding the truthfulness of the message. 

St. Thomas observes that God helps us to accept the revelation by a threefold aid: 
through an inner call, through the outer teaching and preaching, through miracles. He 
distinguishes two types of revelation: natural and supernatural: the former is the revelation of 
truths of the natural order, concerning God and our relationship with Him. Revelation is not 
absolutely necessary for knowing these truths; however, it is morally necessary because left to 
human reason, few would have managed to know them; those who would come to 
know them will have to go through a long and painful search; and finally the truths 
that they arrive at would be burdened with error and inaccuracy. The second order of 
revelation is an exigency that comes from the new order of salvation, or the 
supernatural order of salvation to which God has called the humankind. To achieve 
this revelation is absolutely necessary. "Saint Thomas thus conceives of revelation as 
the activity of the God of salvation who freely and gratuitously furnishes man with all 
the truths necessary and useful to the pursuit of his supernatural end. The revealed 
truth is primarily and essentially the knowledge of God, which is inaccessible to 
reason and consequently can be known only by way of revelation" (Latourelle, 
Theology of Revelation pg. 160). 

c) John Duns Scotus: Revelation is the original transmission of supernatural truth 
from God, given to prophets and apostles. The doctrine of the Church rests on this 
original communication. (Avery Dulles,' Revelation Theology, London 1969, pg. 44). 
Scotus makes a distinction between the knowledge which God has of Himself and the 
knowledge man has of Him through revelation. In other words he maintains that non 
revelation can give us a complete and exhaustive knowledge of God. In other words God 
is not the adequate object of any created intellect. Since God is love everything has its 
origin in love. Hence when God reveals he communicates His love through the truths 
which He reveals. 

In the early scholastic period, we find a definite step taken with regard to the 
changed understanding of revelation. The noetic element gains predominance . This 
current of thought will dominate the whole theological thinking on revelation for the 
centuries to come until Vatican II will try a break through. 

4. Revelation Theology of the Council of Trent 

The doctrine of the Council of Trent was very much conditioned by the positions 
taken by the reformers. Both Luther and Calvin look at human beings in need of 
redemption with a pessimistic outlook. For Luther the human persons are weighed down 
by their sins and they cannot get out of it except through a positive intervention of God in 
their lives. This God cannot be apprehended by reason, but only by an act of trust. The 
biblical word produces in the human beings this trust. In this way it gives them the sense 
of the presence of God and this is revelation. The Gospel that is proclaimed contains 



23 



promises and these promises inspire trust in God. I 

Calvin faces the problem from a more intellectual standpoint. Although the 
human persons can know God through the works of creation, they can never attain to 
this except through the help of God because of their fallen condition. Revelation 
through the Holy Scriptures gives them the capacity to correct their understanding of 
creation. It also gives them knowledge of those truths, which they would never be able 
to attain. The Scripture contains the whole of revelation. But humanity needs the help of 
the Holy Spirit in order to understand the Scriptures. 

In the position of the reformers we find that they are on the same line of thought 
regarding revelation, as the scholastics in as much as their preoccupation about 
revelation is also revelation as knowledge. They differ from the scholastics in this that 
they restrict this knowledge only to exclusive communication from God to the 
individual. The individual is passive. This passivity is extended to the community of 
individuals who are expected to transmit this revelation, namely the Church. They 
know nothing more about revelation except what is contained in the book. The Bible 
becomes the book, which contains the revelation of God, the knowledge that God 
wants to communicate to humanity. 

The doctrine of the Council, being a counter-reformation measure, is meant for 
condemning the errors of the Reformers. Hence, retaining the concept of revelation as 
knowledge, the Council makes the following statements: 

a) The revelation is the source of all truth of salvation and moral discipline. 

b) This revelation is contained not only in the Bible but also in non-written tradition 

The attention has been shifted totally from revelation as an event, to revelation as 
truths. The task of theology of the subsequent period will be mainly to defend and justify 
the message of revelation rather than to understand the meaning of the event of 
revelation. 

5. Post- Tridentine Period 

The Catholic and Protestant theology of revelation during this period tend to 
become merely prepositional. The Catholic view that revelation is contained in Scripture 
and Tradition makes them turn their attention to the knowledge and defense of its content 
against the heretics. They never look at it as an event by which the mystery of God enters 
into the lives of human beings. The Protestant position is similar to this with the only 
difference that these stick to the propositions of the Bible and absolutize them. They, too 
have a propositional view of revelation. Naturally, these positions create reactions in the 
philosophers and scientists of the 16th century and 17th century. This absolutization of 
Scripture and Tradition led, at least to some extent, to a reaction, attributing to human 
reason an absolute value. If everything is already known, the human reason can know 
nothing more. What it can do is only to defend the acquired knowledge. In fact we find 
that both in Protestant and Catholic theology reason was made use of for mere apologetic 
purposes. The reaction is an effort to uphold reason. Thus we see the rise of 
Intellectualism. 

a) Intellectualism. The two main trends that protested against this static absolutism of the 
sources of revelation are: 



24 



i) Deism: Their main tenets are the following: 1) Revelation adds nothing 
substantially to what one knows from reason; it is the re- publication of the law of nature; 
2) Revelation is reasonable; there is nothing in it, which is not clear. If there is anything 
mysterious, it comes from non-authentic sources; 3) We see here that revelation is 
reduced to a set of truths. 

ii) Rationalism: Kant manifests skepticism regarding the historical knowledge of 
Divine realities as claimed by Christian revelation; but he does not deny the possibility of 
knowledge by the intellect. Intellect, as pure reason cannot establish the existence of 
transcendent realities: the idea of soul, of freedom and of God which are the 
indispensable basis of morality and religion are the postulates of intellect as practical 
reason. Kant respected the Bible to the extent that he could read into it his own 
philosophical theories. Historical revelation or Bible is a means for communicating the 
data of practical reason in a popular symbolic fashion and with the sanction of external, 
social authority. Divine revelation which gives religious precepts is the data of practical 
reason and not of pure reason. 

b) Anti-Intellectualism: This was a rebellion against rationalism. From 
intellectualism, we go to a radical anti-intellectualism. The root of this is found in the 
absence of personalism. We have two types of anti-intellectualists: One group that, 
depreciating human reason, finds truths in human feeling and subjectivity 
(Sentimentalism). The other instead, finds truths in a mechanical communication from 
God to human beings (Traditionalism). 

i) Sentimentalism 

Schliermacher (1768-1834) based his philosophy of religion not upon speculative reason, 
but upon the sentiments of heart. The human beings experience their total dependence on the 
changeless, the necessary and the infinite. This gives rise to the idea of God. Revelation is an 
experience of transformation in the human being's religious consciousness. Every religion is 
based on the uniqueness or originality of this fact, which lies at the foundation of a religious 
community; Christian religion rests upon the unique God-consciousness of Christ. For him the 
content of revelation is not dogma or doctrine, but immediate awareness; theology is human 
being's expression of and commentary on this consciousness or awareness of God. 

Kierkegaard (1813 -1855) Accidental historical truths can never serve as proofs for the 
eternal truths of reason; the transition by which it is proposed to base an eternal truth upon 
historical testimony is a leap. Christian revelation being a sheer paradox cannot be made plausible 
on philosophic or scientific grounds; it demands the existential commitment of blind faith. 
Authority is the qualitatively decisive point in the acceptance of revelation. This is because 
human beings are unlike God, and therefore their reason cannot, of itself, bridge the gap. 
Revelation demands personal adherence to the teacher himself In faith the disciple owes 
everything, including his very capacity to assent, to the teacher. 

ii) Fideism and Traditionalism. 

They manifest a depreciation of the powers of human reason. They maintained that 
supernatural faith was absolutely required in order for human beings to perceive fundamental 



25 



truths of a religious nature, such as the existence and attributes of God, the immortality of the 
soul. The principle exponent oifideism is Bautain (1796-1867). Traditionalism may be regarded 
as a particular form of fideism. They maintain that in order that human beings may come to the 
knowledge of God, they needed at least a general revelation. God made such a revelation at the 
beginning of time, and this primitive revelation was passed down through oral tradition, and thus 
constituted the organ of general revelation (De Bonald 1754-1840). Besides this, there is a kind 
of moderate traditionalism, which admitted that human reason was not entirely powerless in the 
realm of religious truths, but it was at least morally incapable of discovering some of the most 
important precepts of moral law (the preambles of faith). 

c) Attempts at a Compromise between Intellectualism and Anti-Intellectualism: 

i) Semi-rationalism: They maintained that reason could demonstrate by intrinsic 
arguments all the truths of revelation. George Hermes (1775-1831) held that revelation 
was the mode of knowledge, which the ignorant should practice owing to their incapacity 
to discern the truth about God through scientific demonstration; but the wise could 
substitute clear philosophic knowledge for the obscurity of faith. Even for the wise, grace 
would still be necessary to bring about the total submission of their lives to the truths of 
revelation. Anton Gunther (1783-1863) held that human reason was omni competent 
and denied that revelation would be absolutely necessary to manifest any truth whatever. 
Theological progress in his view consisted in a reduction of faith to rational knowledge 
through a deeper understanding of the divinely attested truth. Jacob Frohschammer 
(1821-1893) held that pure reason could never comprehend the mysteries of revelation. 
But he added that reason, which is intrinsically modified and developed under the 
influence of Christian revelation, could do so. 

ii) John Henry Newman (1801-1890) was chiefly preoccupied about the dogmatic 
and authoritative character of revelation. In opposition to the prevalent Rationalism he 
insisted on the mysteriousness of revealed dogmas. 

iii) Matthias Joseph Sheeban (1835-1888) developed the doctrine of mystery in 
opposition to the rationalists and semirationalists. He contributed to the Trinitarian 
understanding of revelation. According to his view, revelation always occurs through the 
Son as Logos, but its acceptance requires an interior enlightenment of the Holy Spirit, 
which likewise deserves to be called revelation. 

d) The Position of the Church: The Syllabus of Errors: Pius IX in his syllabus of errors 
(1864) summarized a number of earlier condemnations. It reasserted the following 
statements against rationalism. 



i) The human reason is not the sovereign normative value for human beings 

ii) Divine revelation is not increased through the mere development of man's 

rational life 

iii) It is in harmony with the reason 

iv) The historical validity of the biblical prophecies and miracles is affirmed 

v) Against semi-rationalism it denies that human reason, even historically educated 

could demonstrate all the Christian dogmas. 

6. 



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6. I Vatican Council 

I Vatican Council came closer than any previous Church Council to setting forth an 
authoritative Catholic view of revelation. In its third session (April 4, 1 870) it adopted the 
Dogmatic Constitution 'Dei Films' on Catholic Faith, which on the whole reaffirms the 
main position of St. Thomas on revelation in so far as it had become the common 
property of the post - Tridentine Scholastic tradition. It presents revelation in terms of a 
teacher-pupil relationship. The Constitution 'Dei Filius' is a document, which almost 
exclusively deals with the existence of revelation and not of its nature: 

a) There are two ways by which human being can arrive at knowledge of God: natural 
and supernatural 

b) It is possible for human beings, by the natural light of their reason through the medium 
of creatures (per ea quae facta sunt) to arrive at certain knowledge of God. This goes 
against: atheism and positivism and traditionalism. 

c) Then it deals with the supernatural revelation: 

i) The fact of positive and supernatural revelation is affirmed. 

ii) God is the author of this revelation. It is the free and gratuitous operation of His 
will. 

iii) This divine initiative was motivated 

By His wisdom: As Creator and Provident God it was fitting that He makes all humans know the 
religious truths without difficulty, with certitude and without the admixture of error. As the author 
of the Supernatural order, for God raised them to this order. He had to make known to them the 
end for which He raised them up. 
By His Goodness: This communication is a sign of God's effusive charity 

d) The Material Object of Revelation is God & His decrees 

i) God, His existence. His attributes, the intimate life of three persons 

ii) His Decrees concerning the creation, government, elevation. Incarnation, 
Redemption. 

iii) The human race is the beneficiary of this revelation. 

iv) Supernatural revelation is a process of continuous and progressive action of God 
in the World. 

e) Necessity of Revelation 

i) Revelation is necessary because God has ordered human beings towards a 
supernatural end. 

ii) This necessity, however, is dependent on the salvific will of God. It is not an 
absolute necessity. 

iii) Revelation of the truths of natural order is morally necessary because through 
revelation everyone can know such truths with facility, with firm certitude and with no 
admixture of error. 

f) The Possibility of Revelation. The human beings can receive the knowledge through 
revelation and this does not go against his nature as a being endowed with intelligence 
and free will. 



27 



g) The Sources of Revelation are Scripture & Tradition 

h) The human beings must respond to the revealing God because 

i) They depend entirely upon God as their Creator and Lord, 
ii) Motive for their faith is the authority of the revealing God, 
This distinguishes faith from science 

i) Revelation, being supernatural, contains also' mysteries, i.e., truths that are inaccessible 
to our human reason 

j) God has given exterior proofs of His revelation namely, divine facts, especially 
miracles and prophecies 

The doctrine of Vatican I must be understood against the background of its 
times. The Constitution Dei Filius is intended less as a positive and balanced 
expression of the nature of revelation than as an answer of a Church to certain 
philosophical and theological systems deemed incompatible with the Church's 
dogmatic heritage. In comparison with the more concrete and historical point of view 
of Trent and some earlier Councils, Vatican I looks upon revelation from an abstract 
and almost metaphysical point of view. Its teaching has remarkable conceptual clarity 
but lacks the biblical and existential tone which Vatican II sought to restore. 

7. Towards a Personalistic Approach in Revelation Theology 

The prepositional character of the revelation theology of post Tridentine period 
was coming to an end with the 1st Vatican Council. Although the Council had shown 
some indication to formulate revelation as God's self-communication, there was no sign 
that it intended to present revelation as a communication on a clearly personal level. This 
was to be the task of the II Vatican Council. The movement towards this re-thinking on 
revelation began almost immediately after Vatican 1. Since some of these movements, 
due to the extreme style of formulation that they adopted, seemed to deny the statements 
of Vatican I, they were considered as opposed to the official theology of revelation of the 
same Council. The movement called Modernism belongs to this category. Instead, some 
Catholic theologians such as Blondel accepted the personalistic approach and tried to 
formulate it without denying the prepositional presentation of Vatican I. 

A) Modernism 

Although it flowered in the first decade of the twentieth century. Modernism in 
substance is a Catholic echo of Protestant theology of the late 1 9th century. They were 
labeled Modernists because they wanted to adapt Catholicism to what was valid in 
modern thoughts, even at the price of a certain discontinuity with the Church's own past 
teaching and institutional forms. It practically denied the transcendent character of 
revelation, turning it into a purely human experience. The true formulation of Modernism 
can be found more clearly in the documents of the Church that condemn the movement 
than in the writings of its protagonists themselves. They insisted on human experience, 
meaning by it merely psychological consciousness and not the totality of it. 



28 



i) Sources of Modernism 

a) The Philosophy of Kant reduced religion to a mere moral obligation, imposed on 
him by the practical reason. There is no revelation in his system in the sense of a 
God who speaks to human persons, in order to communicate to them the salvific 
knowledge that leads them to action. 

h) Schliermacher's concept of revelation as the spontaneous and subjective 
realization of the presence of God, springing forth from the feeling of dependence 
on God was also an important contribution to the modernistic concept of 
revelation. 

c) Sabatier thought of revelation as an act by which the awareness of God in the 
human person is created, purified and progressively made clear in the individual 
and in humanity. This revelation is expressed first of all in images, then under the 
form of concepts and judgments, which the Church can approve and receive as 
dogmas. Since those dogmas merely are symbolic expressions, they are subject to 
evolution; they therefore, vary as a consequence, with the varying ages. 

ii) The Modernists 

a) Alfred Loisy: We shall synthesize in his own words the concept of revelation 
that he had. 

What is called revelation can only be man's acquired consciousness of his 
relationship to God. What is the Christian revelation in its principle and point of 
departure, except the perception in the soul of Christ of the relationship by which he 
himself was united to God and of that which binds all men to their heavenly Father 
(Author d 'un petit livre (1903) pg.l95). 

Dogmas for Loisy are a kind of scientific commentary on faith enunciated by the Church 
in its effort to mediate between faith itself and the scientific thinking of a given era. 
Dogmas are necessarily relative to the stage of intellectual and cultural development of 
those for and by whom they were formulated. To sum up, for Loisy, revelation is not a 
doctrine offered to our faith, unchanging deposit of truths, but rather an intuition and 
experimental perception, always in development (always becoming) of our relationship 
with God. Revelation, like dogma and theology, always evolves, it is always happening 
(Latourelle, pg.276). 

b) Tyrell. His idea of revelation is set forth in his book 'Through Scylla and 
Charybdis' (1907). Revelation as he conceived it consists in a quasi-mystical experience 
and is not to be identified with the intellectual component of that experience. The Gospel 
is a power, not a science; Christianity is not a body of definitions and affirmations 
divinely guaranteed, but life. Revelation cannot be communicated but at most can be 
occasioned, by preaching and writing. The dogmas of the Church are not themselves 
revelation, but a merely human reaction to it. They serve to protect it, but are not 
endowed with scientific and philosophical infallibility. Tyrell's many sound insights are 
vitiated by his excessive distrust of the conceptual element in revelation and by his 
predominantly pragmatic attitude towards the Church's teaching authority. 



29 



iii) Anti-modernist Documents 

a) The Decree 'LamentabiW (July 3, 1907): Three statements of Loisy are 
condemned. 

> Revelation can be nothing more than the awareness man acquires of his relation 
to God 

> As a consequence the dogmas, which the Church proposes as, revealed are not 
truths, which have come down from heaven but a certain interpretation of 
religious facts, which the human mind has acquired, by laborious effort. 

> The revelation, which constitutes the object of Catholic faith, was not closed 
with the apostles. 

b) The Encyclical Pascendi (8th Sept. 1907). It is a perfect synthesis of the modernist 
teachings. 

> Philosophically Modernism professed agnosticism and doctrine of vital immanence. 
Theologically religion is the blossoming of the religious sentiment. 

> In theology they adapt the philosophical principles of immanence, symbolism and 
evolution to faith. 

c) The Motu Proprio: "Sacrarum Antistitum" (1st Sept. 1910) and the anti -modernist oath. 

> Historical Christ founded the Church, as the guardian and mistress of the revealed word 

^ Faith is not a blind feeling, but an adherence of the intelligence to the truth revealed by 
God Revelation is the Word of testimony. 

B. Blondel(I86I- I94I) 

The most constructive Catholic response to the modernist movement was of 
Blondel, a philosopher by profession. Seeking a via media between a modernist 
immanentism and an ultramontane extrinsicism, Blondel developed what he called the 
"method of immanence". His principle of immanence clearly presupposes that revelatory 
knowledge must be partly produced by the individual believer in his normal movement 
by which he passes from Faith to Dogma rather than from Dogma to Faith. 

There is a basic inadequacy in the human persons, which makes them seek 
something uniquely necessary, but at the same time' inaccessible to their human action. Then 
there is posited a hypothesis, the Christian supernatural order. He makes an act of faith in 
this. The historical and objective character of this Christian order will become 
meaningful later on because it will appear as a real answer to his search. Hence, there is a 
subjective beginning, a hypothetical answer and an objective expression: Search - faith - 
dogma. 

8. Revelation Theology in the XX Century 

A) Protestant Theology of Revelation in the XX Century: 

In the first two decades of the century a number of Protestant theologians became 
convinced that Christianity had arisen not through a special intervention from on high 



30 



but through a syncretistic union of religions and philosophies already in existence - 
Jewish, Oriental and Hellenistic. 

i) Scholars of Comparative Religion 

Troeltsch (1865-1923). He accepted the biblical portrait of Jesus as an 
overpowering instance of God's revelatory presence. In Christ we revere the highest 
revelation of God accessible to human beings, but all the religions rested on supernatural 
revelation in the sense of an ineffable, extraordinary experience associated with some 
Powerful religious personality. 

Rudolf Otto (1869-1937): Path to the divine is through the human being's inner 
longings and sentiments rather than through rational argument and doctrinal revelation. 
This numinous experience involves a paradoxical fusion of terror and allurement 
(Mysterium tremendum et fascinans). When combined with the ethically good, the 
numinous coincides with holy. For Otto all human religions are based on revelation. 
Christianity is the supreme manifestation of the holy and all the other religious 
experiences must be evaluated from the vantage point of Christian faith. The dogmatic 
statements have only evocative symbolic value. 

ii) Transcendentalism 

Karl Barth (1886-1968): He maintains that there is a contrast between religion 
and revelation. The former is the outstretch of the sinful, fallen human being towards 
God. The latter is the act by which the utterly transcendent and unattainable God 
graciously comes to us. Christianity is seen as revelation, that is, as a downward 
movement from God. What Christ came to give is not a new form of piety or religious 
experience, but a revelation of God, the totally other. Revelation crushes human pride. It 
is an act of judgment and it comes to us in Christ. His resurrection is God's 'no' to all 
human possibilities. God effects a new creation in Christ. He rejects rationalism because 
it rejects the event- character of revelation. He rejects the new historicism of revelation 
because it overlooks the divine dimension of revelation. The content of revelation, the 
word of God, comes to us in three forms, as revealed word, as written word, and as 
preached word, respectively present in Christ, Bible and the Church. 

Emil Brunner (1889-1966): The specific quality of biblical revelation, according 
to Brunner, is that God comes to us as absolute subject. As such he cannot be 
comprehended by conceptual, objectifying knowledge. He encounters us interpersonally 
through an event that inwardly transforms us. Revelation achieves itself in the inner 
change by which the recipient makes the absolute surrender of faith. Faith differs from 
every other form of knowledge since, instead of giving us mastery of an object; it places 
us at the disposal of the Absolute Subject. The contents of faith, therefore, cannot be 
legitimately expressed in propositional form. Dogma is a hellenization of the Gospel. It 
substitutes speculative knowledge for proclamation. 

Bultmann (1884-1976): The subject and object of revelation are nothing less 
than the living God Himself in so far as He summons us to authentic existence. 
Revelation cannot consist in historical facts, abstract doctrines, or timeless myths. It is 
the divine action whereby God meets the human person in the preaching of the word. 

iii) Existentialism 

Paul Tillich (1886-1965): He took his starting point from the human being's 
existential situation, that of finiteness and anxiety, which gives rise to concern. The 



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humans seek to find the ground of their being. Revelation is the leap whereby it is given 
to us to encounter God as the ground of our being. As its objective correlative this 
extraordinary apprehension (ecstasy) demands an extraordinary event (miracle), which is 
the sign of the presence of the divine. In summary, revelation may be called the self- 
manifestation of God through miracle and ecstasy. Revelation may occur at any time or 
in any place, but the final and universal revelation is that which occurs in Jesus as the 
Christ. 

iv) Oscar Cullman (1902-1999): His famous books are Christ and Time, Salvation 
in History. Biblical revelation has its primary theme God's redemptive action in history. 
Even God is not an object of revelation except in function of his salvific activity. The 
Bible tells the story of God's redemptive dealings with his select people - a story that 
progressively narrows down to focus on Christ as the representative of mankind, and then 
expands from Pentecost as the message of salvation is carried out to the ends of the earth. 
For Cullman dogmas are a correct and necessary inference from the Bible, but are not 
themselves revealed. 

B. Catholic Theology of Revelation in the XX Century 

Catholic Theology since the middle ages insisted on the autonomy of the Church 
over human sciences, the permanence and stability of the revealed truth, the human 
being's obligation to submit to the word of God, as something delivered from outside, 
sealed by miraculous guarantees. In the anti-modernist world it insisted more vehemently 
than ever before on supernaturalism, irreformability and transcendence. This situation 
had to face the modern world, with its autonomy of science, sensitivity to historical 
change and creativity of the human spirit. This is the context in which Catholic theology 
of revelation had to make its appearance. 

i) Latin Manuals: 

Pesch (1853-1925) distinguishes between natural and supernatural revelation. 
Natural revelation is communicated by realities, supernatural revelation by words. 
Diekmann gives the definition of revelation as "locutio Dei attestans" (God speaking as 
a witness) and then proceeds to elaborate this in terms of classical four causes of 
Aristotelian Scholasticism. For Chenu (1895-1990) God, in giving himself through 
statements of faith, becomes more interior to us than we are to ourselves. Seeking to 
overcome the aridity and abstractedness of the usual Scholastic analysis of revelation, 
Chenu stressed, the concrete realities of salvation history proclaimed in the Bible. He 
must be praised as one of the thinkers that helped to liberate the Catholic theology of 
revelation from the sterile conceptualism into which it had fallen. Mersch (1890-1940) 
maintained that revelation cannot be scrutinized merely from outside like an object. It is a 
simple aspect of the communication of divine life, which is given to the believers through 
Christ, the unique Mediator. The formulas, however, in which revelation is articulated, 
play a vital part in Christian life. Just as the soul cannot come into existence without body 
so the life of faith cannot come into being without sensible signs, words and gestures. 

ii) Some prominent Catholic Theologians 

Teilhard de Chardin (1881-1955): Christ is considered as the principle of unity 
and finality of the whole universe. He touched the universe not merely at a particular 
period of history, but penetrated it to the depth and in some sense divinized the world. 



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The divine light was reflected not in Christianity alone, but in other religions as well. In 
our age the various religions are moving towards a convergence. The object of this 
convergence is the universal Christ. This is the only convergence possible for the world 
and the only possible form of a religion of the future. But he emphatically said that 
Christianity was the axis towards which all must converge. De Lubac (1896-1991): 
Revelation could not be exhaustively stated in doctrinal formulas. The original deposit of 
revelation consisted in a concrete and vital adherence to the person of Christ. Revelation 
was a summons to the kingdom. Revelation gives new eyes to those who accept it and 
unfolds a vista of new universe. Danielou (1905-1974): In other religions he finds a form 
of cosmic revelation. God's self-affirmation through nature, constitutes his initial self- 
disclosure and hence the point of departure for positive, biblical revelation. This takes 
place through a series of historical events. God's acts in history are known not by 
ordinary observation, but only with the help of a divine activity, within the human spirit. 
The testimony of those who have come into contact with God's revelation in history 
contains astonishing evidences and thus become, even for those who have not shared in 
it, one of the reasons for believing in God. 

Karl Rahner (1904-1 984). He has a fresh approach to the understanding of 
salvation history and consequently also of revelation in its relation to the life of the 
Trinity, to secular history and to the history of religions in general. Revelation is the 
salvific intervention of God human history. This has many expressions in the history of 
religion. The question here is regarding the uniqueness of Christian revelation and it s 
specific role in God's plan of salvation. The revelation event has two sides: on the one 
hand it constitutes the supernaturally elevated (supernatural existential) state of 
humankind (the universal plan of salvation); on the other hand revelation takes through 
historical mediation. In Christian revelation God's self communication in which the 
saving revelation consists, takes place through the intermediary of a particular historical 
event; transcendence makes history when the Spirit effects the incarnation of the Logos. 
By the power of the same Spirit, his revelation continues through history until it is fully 
revealed at the Parousia. At the same time it must be admitted that supernatural salvation 
is operative everywhere in history. It has to be realized in the lives of individuals through 
an act of faith manifested in the acceptance of the historical manifestation of the divine 
in Jesus Christ who takes away all ambiguities in the human responses to God's 
revelation in universal history. (Karl Rahner, On the Concept of Revelation in K. Rahner 
& J. Ratzinger, Revelation and Tradition) 

iii) Magisterium: Humani Generis is the encyclical of Pope Pius XII. It cautioned the 
theologians against the extreme positions to which the effort to restate the dogmas and 
Christian revelation in terms of modern philosophies would lead, and praised the great 
merit of scholastic theology for its firm grasp of unassailable principles. But at the same 
time the Pope noted the importance of the biblical movement in the understanding of 
theology. 

9. Revelation Theology of Vatican II 

A. The Main Factors that Contributed Towards the New Theology of Revelation: 

i) Scriptural Movement: Guardini has written that only revelation can tell us what 
revelation is. If this is true, then biblical studies of the recent past could not but have played a 
central role in the understanding of revelation. The expression "locutio Dei" (speech of God) 



33 



which was found in all the manuals of theology is seen in the light of the biblical 
meaning of the Word of God. It is an event and not a statement. It is the act of God's self- 
disclosure in history. Revelation, 'locutio Dei' in this view is not simply a communication 
of knowledge, but a dynamic process by which the divine persons invite human persons 
to enter into the realm of relationship. The biblical movement has thus opened out the 
historical, personal, social and eschatological dimensions of revelation. 

ii) Philosophy: The phenomenology of language and symbolism, the currents of 
personalist and existentialist thought, the study of history and cosmic evolution have all 
contributed to a new vision of the theology of revelation. The twentieth century 
philosophy strives to avoid the division of reality into subject- object; natural-supernatural 
and shows that the human relationship takes place on the level of persons in their totality. 
This will show that there is a very close similarity between the modern biblical 
understanding of revelation and the modern philosophical concept of personal 
relationship. The revelation theology of Vatican II has been very much influenced by this 
modern philosophical approach to reality. 

iii) The Catechetical Movement: The great need of making theology more pastoral 
gave a new direction in the method of approach in revelation theology as is evident 
especially from the kerygmatic theology of Jungmann etc. Catechetical and liturgical 
movements have shown that revelation has to be present, personal, social happening. 

iv) Pastoral Character of the Church's Mission: The Church has received 
revelation in order to proclaim it to the world, to all peoples. She has to proclaim it to the 
people of today, agnostics and believers, non-Christians and atheists. She has to do this in 
a spirit of dialogue. This demands a new way of understanding the revelation on the part 
of the Christians. 

B. II Vatican Council Constitution 'DEI VERBUM' 

We can distinguish three aspects in the presentation of revelation: In the first place 
revelation is a pastoral action. The Word of God through revelation becomes the life of 
the world. Secondly, revelation is a Christological event. The word of God is the life, 
death and resurrection of Christ experienced, believed and proclaimed by the Church. 
Thirdly, revelation is a salvific event. The Word of God is a summons to salvation. 

i) Revelation itself 

• Christian Revelation proceeds from the divine benignity (the theological aspect of 
Revelation); it is an initiative on the part of God (Art.2.). 

• Revelation is realized in Christ (the historical aspect of Revelation), announced by 
the prophets (Art. 3) and completed by Christ during His earthly life (Art 4) 

• The response of the human person to this Revelation (the anthropological aspect 
of this Revelation) consists in obedience of faith (Art. 5) which results in sharing 
divine life which goes beyond the comprehension and possibility of human beings 
(Art. 6) 

We shall now briefly describe this process by analyzing the various articles of this 
chapter. 

A) Revelation, a personal act on the part of God (Art.2). The document 'Dei 
Verbum' presents revelation as a dialogue between G;d and human beings. This can 
be clearly seen in the presentation of the Art.2. 



34 



• God is the prime agent of the revelation. He acts in revelation as person and 
directs His action to persons. He acts personally; this is shown in the words 'In 
his wisdom and goodness.' What He communicates is not His decrees and 
knowledge but Himself, His very person. He does this as an expression of his 
universal concern for human beings. 

• On the other side of the revelation there is the human person who is approached 
by God and made to enter into intimacy with Him, by sharing His Trinitarian life. 
Revelation reaches into the personal centre of the human beings; it touches them 
in the depth of their being, in their individual faculties, in their will and 
understanding. 

• This approach of God to human persons is made by means of a bridge. This 
bridge is Christ. He is the ideal and the only mediator in as much as He is both 
God and man. Hence we may say that the specificity of Christian revelation is in 
this: It is a communication from God to the human beings through the person of 
Christ. 

• It is an act of friendship, a friendship that implies a full communication between 
the persons concerned. The invisible God does not only manifest Himself to us, 
but also donates Himself to us ex abundantia caritatis (out of his generous love). 
This donation is manifested in a profound personal relationship, which consists in 
making us enter into communion with Him. Here we see that revelation is not 
something purely speculative, which is directed to our intelligence, but something 
vital, which is directed to our whole person. 

• It is a reality that has entered our human life acquiring a historic dimension. 
Although truths that are revealed are divine and therefore immovable, they are at 
the same time adapted to our condition. The truth of God becomes an Incarnate 
Truth. Being a historical reality there are two elements in this event: words and 
events. They are related in an organic manner. Works concretize His word and 
His words illumine His works. Revelation is a complete history, the history of 
salvation not a mere exposition of doctrines. 

B) Revelation, its historical character verified in the Old Testament (Art. 3). We can 

distinguish the following stages in the historical realization of revelation 

• Creation: the first act of revelation is the Word of God that creates (Jn. 1:3). 
God also manifests Himself through creation; the created realities are the images 
of God. They are the words of God. 

• Fall of humankind: The whole history of humankind, as it exists today, is under 
the sign of the fall, but God's revelation of salvation is present under the sign of 
promise and His care of human beings, manifested in His vigilant providence. 

• Redemptive Alliance: The realization of the promise takes place in 3 ways. 

> Calling of the people of God in Abraham. He is the depository of the Promise of God. 
He is the first member of the elected race. Salvation is already present in him. 

> The pedagogical training of the people under Moses. With him they are really made 
into a chosen race. The Word of God that was manifested to him is the guiding principle 
of the people through their long journey to the Promised Land. 



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> The rest of the history of Israel is an anxious waiting for the Saviour. The people are 
slowly being prepared by the Word of God to meet the Word Incarnate. 

The universal character of revelations manifested in the creation and the particular 
historical character is manifested in the Old Testament. Both are linked together in the 
person of Abraham. The particular revelation is at the service of the universal revelation. 

C. Revelation, its summit realized in the person of Christ (Art. 4). In the fullness of 
time the Word of God reaches its full realization in Christ. 

• Christ is the Revealer par excellence in as much as He is the Word of God, the 
perfect ref 1 ection of the Divinity, through his incarnation he translated perfectly 
the Divine in human language and life. 

• Revelation by Christ is the summit of divine communication to humankind. 
Christian revelation is perfect and does not need any complement. 

• Christian Revelation will not disappear because the Spirit accompanies the 
Apostles whom Jesus commissioned to communicate this revelation to the whole 
world for all times. 

D) Revelation is a word that is responded to (Art. 5) 

Revelation is Word and this Word must be responded to. This response is called 
Faith. This faith establishes a personal contact with God, the revealer. This is the 
natural consequence of understanding revelation as dialogue. 

■ This faith is an act of obedience, a religious submission to God, after the example 
of Abraham. 

■ This faith is a total dedication of the human person to God. 

■ This faith is inspired and actuated by the help of the Holy Spirit. 

■ This faith can be perfected. 

■ This Faith is both a donum (gift) on the part of God and an opus (task) on the part 
of the human person. 

E) Revelation, necessary for human person for salvation. (Art.7) 

The necessity of revelation, according to Vatican II, should be seen in its personal 
character. It is also necessary because the understanding of the truths transcends the 
human intelligence, and human beings cannot know them only through natural means. 

ii) Handing on of Divine Revelation 

Just as revelation in itself has a triple dimension: theological Christological, and 
anthropological, its transmission in the course of time also has these three dimensions. 
This could not have been otherwise because the transmission of revelation is nothing else 
but the continued revelation in the course of human history. 

A. The process of Transmission of revelation (Art. 7) 

• If the salvation is for all peoples of all times, also revelation is meant for all 



36 



peoples of all times. This is possible only by a faithful transmission' of it through the 
centuries. The instruments of transmission should be closely connected with its original 
source 
It is done through Christ - the Gospel. 

It is done through the instrumentality of the Apostles. Christ transmits the revelation, 

through his representatives to other members of the human community. 

The Apostles carry out this transmission by oral teaching, through institutions and cultic 

celebrations; they did it also by written Word. 

The Apostolic ministry of transmitting revelation was continued by the Bishops whom 

they constituted as their successors. 

The Written (the Scriptures) and the unwritten Tradition together form a mirror, which 

reflect God and His saving revelation. The Church contemplates it and remains faithful to 

it as she continues the mission entrusted to her. 

B. The term 'tradition' is revelation that is handed down in the course of time (Art. 

8) 

• Here the word 'tradition' is used in terms of the whole evangelical message, which 
the apostles, received and entrusted to the Church to be guarded and transmitted 
until the end of time. This apostolic tradition is expressed in a special manner in 
the inspired book of the New Testament and it is brought into the living tradition 
of the Church, in its dogmas sacraments, and sanctified life. Hence here 
'tradition' is not to be understood as a parallel source of revelation together with 
the Holy Scripture. The Holy Scriptures are also included here. 

• Tradition is not a mechanical repetition of the teaching of the apostles; it is open 
and there is a growth in its understanding. It takes place through intellectual 
deepening of the content of Revelation, through authentic preaching, through the 
deepening of the spiritual experience of this Revelation. This is effected through 
the presence and action of the Holy Spirit in the Church. 

• The Witnesses of Tradition are the Fathers who show the richness of its content 
through their teaching and life witness, the liturgy, which makes present whole 
mystery of salvation by means of rites, the Church, which recognizes the full 
canon of the sacred books and interprets them. 

C. The relationship between the Sacred Tradition and Sacred Scriptures (Art. 9) 

• Revelation is found both in Scripture and in Tradition which are not two distinct 
sources but two enjoined forms, both of which yield the whole revealed truth, the 
Gospel of Christ, according to modes that are different and proper to each. They 
are interconnected; they communicate with each other an constitute a unity. 

• Both come from God and have the same ends assigned to them by Him: the 
transmission of revelation takes place differently in the Scripture and in the 
Tradition. 

• Scripture is the Word of God consigned to writing under the inspiration of the 
Holy Spirit. The Church does not draw the certainty about all revealed truths from 
the Holy Scripture alone because the Scriptures are not a codification of integral 
revelation. Tradition hands on the entire Word of God assisted by Holy Spirit 
through the ministry of the Word, exercised by the Apostles and their successors. 
Scripture needs to be read and interpreted in the life of the Church, in conjunction 
with Tradition to be fully understood in all its significance and implications. 



37 



D. Scripture, Tradition and Magisterium of the Church (Art. 10) 

• The Word of Christian revelation comes from God; it is transmitted through 
Scripture and Tradition; it is entrusted to the Church. This Church is understood 
as the whole people of God, not merely the hierarchy. 

• The Magisterium of the hierarchy is entrusted with the task of interpreting this 
word authentically with the assistance of the Holy Spirit. The Magisterium is 
exercised at the service of the Word. The Magisterium, therefore, is not above 
the word of God. 

• All three are interdependent. The primary cause of this interdependence is the 
wisdom of God; the unifying principle of action is the Holy Spirit; the common 
purpose is the salvation of souls. All express the Word of God: tradition through 
the living transmission in the Church, Scripture through the written record in the 
Bible, the Magisterium through authoritative interpretation in the Church. The 
same Holy Spirit directs all these different expressions of the Word of God. Thus 
Magisterium can offer for belief a truth that has been divinely revealed and 
transmitted by Tradition, written or unwritten. 

10. Revelation Theology in the Post- Vatican II Period 

There are two significant documents of the Church whish deal with the theology of 
Revelation. They continue the trend set by the Council in this area. 

A) Catechism of the Catholic Church. 

This document (1992 by Pope John Paul IIj is one of the most important initiatives 
which the Church has taken in order to implement the Council directives. It begins with 
the existential situation of the human person in search of truth and happiness (1- 43). 
Revelation is the answer of God to this search. This answer is given by God by entering 
in human history (50 - 64), with its climax in the person of the rise Christ (66-67). The 
revealing action of Christ continues in history through the ministry of the Church under 
the inspiration of the Holy Spirit (76 - 133). Revelation is not, therefore, mere 
formulation of Divine truths, but a communication that is historical .and personal. The 
historical and Christological character of Revelation presented by the Council is 
highlighted in this Catechism as essential elements for the understanding of Christian 
doctrine. 

B) Fides et Ratio. 

This is an encyclical published by Pope John Paul II in 1998. There is an entire 
chapter in this document which deals with Revelation. The encyclical speaks of the 'book of 
nature' as the first book of revelation. For the first time, the Magisterium presents creation not 
only as a witness or manifestation of God, but also as the first step in Revelation (no. 19). The 
bearing of this on the relation between God of Abraham and the God of the philosophers and the 
scientists is discussed. There is a relationship between philosophical access to God and Biblical 
revelation. Biblical revelation is the fulfillment of the decisive plan of love which began with 



38 



creation (no. 15). While stressing the historical character of revelation the encyclical affirms that 
God reveals Himself to humanity through the events of everyday life (n. 11 - 12). Finally the 
sacramental character of revelation is stressed. Revelation remains charged mystery, namely, it is 
a communication in symbols. The Mysteries are not merely truths beyond the grasp of human 
mind, but they are the expressions of communications in symbols. This is a very interesting 
insight in the understanding of revelation (n.l3). 

In the light of the understanding of Revelation according to the recent Church documents, 
especially of Vatican 11 and Papal Magisterium we can say that Christian Revelation has the 
following characteristics: 

i) Revelation is historical = it is an event 

ii) Revelation is symbolic = it is arrived at through the interpretation of events 

iii) Revelation is experiential = it is a personal communication 

iv) Revelation is interpersonal = it is an event of communion 

v) Revelation is communitarian = it results in the formation of a community. 

vi) Revelation takes place in words and deeds. 

vii) Revelation has its climax in Christ. 

viii) Revelation will have its consummation when history will be fulfilled, 

when all human beings will have met Christ and entered into communion 
with Him and with one another and thus built up a perfect community of 
communion, in which faith will have become love. 



CHAPTER III 

CHARACTERISTICS OF CHRISTIAN - REVELATION 

1. THE HISTORICAL CHARACTER OF CHRISTIAN REVELATION 

The analysis of the constitution "Dei Verbum" has shown that we cannot reduce the 
fundamental Christian reality; revelation, to a mere collection of truths. "It would be 
wrong to view this revelation as a vast system of cut and dry propositions and truths. It is 
primarily a message and a light. God's light on our life, our history, on good and evil, on 
death, on God Himself... It is God's view of our reality" (Dutch Cat. p. 291). Revelation is 
an act of self-communication on the part of God in order to establish a relationship 
between Him and the human person. Since human beings live and act in history, this self- 
communication or revelation cannot but take place in human history. Therefore history is 
both a sign and the instrument of His revelation. 

A. Revelation in The Old Testament is Historical 

The revelation of the Old Testament is the interpretation of the historical events of 
Israel in the light of God. This is clear from the following considerations on the Old 
Testament. 

a) The main expressions of the Old Testament to indicate revelation: "galah" and "rah" 
mean to expose, to unveil and to manifest oneself. They are used in connection with the 
events of God's appearance in history and not merely to indicate His communications to 
human persons. This history-centered nature of God's revelation is reflected in the forms in 



39 



which God shows Himself: the storm, the pillar of cloud and of fire, the rustling of the trees and 
the whispering of the winds. These natural phenomena appear as commentary on God's 
revelation in the world, through historical events. This historical character of the Old 
Testament makes the Jewish religion become a historical religion unlike the religions of 
the neighboring peoples 

b) God discloses His will in history and the disclosure of God's will in human 
history becomes the setting of human being's religious decisions. The human person is to 
respond, to accept God's purposeful guidance, to be thankful for this help and be ready to 
serve God's saving will manifested in history. To belong to the people of God, for the 
Jews, meant sharing, participation in. the revealing intervention of God in the history of 
the people. 

c) God is known to the people as the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. He is 
known through the powerful acts of salvation effected in the lives of people. He is 
powerful because He gives Israel victory over their enemies (1 Kings 20:13). He is just 
because He vindicates Himself through the events of the exile (Ez.29.28). 

d) We may say that the whole religious setup of the Old Testament, as reflected in 
the Sacred Books, emerged not from a school of philosophy but from a nation struggling 
for its life with the help of God. Israel discovers the meaning of her relationship with 
God through reflection and divine illumination of the experience of the events of history. 
In Israel there is no distinction between profane history and sacred history. The whole 
history is & process by which Israel becomes a sign of the intervention of God in this 
world. 

e) There are different stages in this process of revelation through history: 

i) The Call of Abraham: It is the inauguration of the economy of divine intervention. It 
involves Abraham in a partnership with Yahweh, and Abraham's posterity is destined to 
share in the relationship that begins to exist between him and God (Gen. 17: 1-4). 
a) Exodus and Sinai: This is the central event of the Old Testament. The whole destiny of 
Israel, ever after, is bound up with the events of Exodus and Sinai They are the basis of 
all the religious life of the Israelites. The prophets will constantly recall this revealing 
event in order to remind the Israelites of their obligation towards Yahweh. The care of 
this revelation is the manifestation of the commandments, which will bring the people of 
all generations into, a covenant relationship with Yahweh. In all these, Israel saw the 
hand of God that was guiding their destiny. Far them Yahweh was the Gad of history, not 
same God of nature; whose existence and action were characterized by necessity. In the 
fertility cults of the contemporary middle-eastern peoples, God of nature could be known 
in and through the seasonal cycle. The ritual myths of fertility saw God dying at the end 
of each harvest time to be resurrected in the following spring. For the Israelites, however, 
Yahweh was the Lord of history (Josh 24:2-5). 

Hi) Judges, Samuel and Kings: The Word of God directed the history of the people in the 
Promised Land. Israel never again divorced her religious thinking from the category of 
history. All through their history it is the word of God that makes history and renders it 
intelligible. Through the prophecy of Nathan, the dynasty of David becomes a direct ally 
of Yahweh (2 Sam. 7:16, 23:5), in the realization of His salvific plan, which is the ultimate 
object of the act of God's self-revelation. 

iv) The Exile: Yahweh is the Lord of all nations. It is the Word of Yahweh that dominates 
history and, far in advance, reveals its course (Is. 45:19, 48:16). God holds the poles of 



40 



history (Is 41:4; 44:4; 48: 12). History is intelligible because it unfolds according to. a plan 
revealed by God. The faith of Israel is in this God of history. The invisible is visibly 
manifested in historical acts; he is revealed in the ordinary and universal course of human 
history. 

B. REVELATION IN THE NEW TESTAMENT IS HISTORICAL: 

The best expression of this historical self-revelation is found in Heb 1:1-2. It is 
not only a revelation in history but it is also a revelation that has a history. Revelation is a 
historical process and the future forms a continuum with the past. The link between the 
past and future is the present event. This event is the death and resurrection of Christ. 
Thus the New Testament presents revelation as God's revealing act in history that runs 
between the word of promise and the work of fulfillment and spans past and present and 
opens into the future as the definitive salutary participation of the human person in the 
life of God. 

Revelation in the New Testament, therefore, is here and now in the person of 
Jesus of Nazareth who lived in our history. He is the message, which he proclaims 
(Mt.23:8-10; 5:18; Mk.l0:16; Mk.l:15). He is presented by the Synoptics as the one in 
whom the historical interventions of God in the Old Testament are fulfilled (Mt.4:12ff; 
12:6). Christ is at once the one who preaches the kingdom of God and the one in whom 
the Kingdom of God is realized (Lk.9:2; Mt 10:7-8). The historical character of Christ 
gives to the divine revelation in Christ a historical dimension. His death and resurrection 
are the last acts of this history. Christ's resurrection, which is both a historical event as 
well as an eschatological one, becomes the last event of revelation and consequently the 
perfection of the historical revelation. 

C. WHAT IS HISTORICAL REVELATION? 

a) History and Revelation 

When we interpret the historical events from the perspective of God, these events 
become revelatory. When this happens we have the plan of salvation, that is, God's action 
guiding the course of history. Christian antiquity calls it 'economy' which is different 
from 'theology'. The latter is concerned with a system of truth in which revelation is 
expressed; the former, instead deals with God's manner of dealing with and relating to 
human beings in their concrete existential situation with a view to guide them to their 
destiny fully respecting their freedom. . 

i) Revelation in History: God intervened in the history of humanity at opportune 
moments chosen by Him. This revelation in history has the following characteristics: 
Personal character of revelation: God communicates with human beings as persons in 
their concrete existential situation. It is an act of election: God communicates by 
choosing people. More than information about Himself, what takes place here is the fact 
that God relates Himself to the person. It is guidance within history: God enters into the 
milieu of human life and activity in the process of revelation. He reveals Himself 
journeying with human beings in their struggles and tensions, success and failures. 
Universal through particular. It does not take place through a universal promulgation. 
God takes into account the particular cultural, linguistic, philosophical realities of the 



41 



various peoples and communicates Himself to each one of them accordingly. His 
universal love is revealed in historical particularities. God chooses Abraham to make 
him father of all who would believe (Gen 12:3; 22:18); Israel is meant to assemble all 
nations in the worship of the One God (Is 66); Jesus Christ is meant to gather into one 
the children of God who were scattered abroad (Jn 11:51). The universalism of 
salvation, however, should not diminish the peculiar election of each one; the 
communion of believers is not based on the ties of a common nature, but on solidarity, 
which is rooted in God's comprehensive love. Freedom: God does not exercise any form 
of coercion; the human person must give his or her answer freely. God reveals along 
with His love. His patience, as He leads human person on, in spite of many failings. For 
the human person, this freedom implies the renunciation of his or her own calculation 
and of refusal to take shelter in established orders. Faithfulness: The person who has 
been chosen and to whom revelation has been communicated has only one security: 
God's fidelity. Salvation: Since God has entered into the company of the human persons 
and is journeying with them the ultimate goal will be reaching the destiny. 

a) Revelation through history: The very historical events themselves are made use 
of by God as means of revelation. The event itself is salvation history. Biblical history is 
at the same time revelation history, and vice versa. In every historical event, there are two 
realities: event and word 

Event: They can be natural events, supernatural events, and political, social or moral 
events. God can make use of all the occasions to make known His will. From the beginning of her 
history, Israel lived through a certain number of events: deliverance from bondage, wandering 
through the desert, entry into Canaan etc. All these events are revelatory. 

Words: Words express the meaning of the divine actions. This is done in Israel 
through the ministry of the prophets. When the historical events are interpreted they become 
altogether the history of salvation. 

Hi) The Implications of a Revelation in and Through History:. 

■ Christian revelation is not a system of abstract propositions concerning God. It is not 
a philosophical system. 

■ It is mediated through signs. It is not the direct communication of an idea. It is the 
meeting of two persons in the context of a sign, which in this case is the history. 

■ Being historical, revelation is not completely comprehended in the beginning, but at 
the end of the revealing history. This revealing history is the Christ-event. Thus the 
resurrection of Christ is the end of the revealing history. The Resurrection and the 
Parousia are not two separate events of salvation history. They constitute together as one 
event. 

■ Since historical revelation is completely comprehended only at the end of time, all 
the events that come before the end are illuminated by the last event. 

■ Being historical, this revelation is accessible to all, provided that human beings are 
open to the realities that occur. It is not given to us through secret and mysterious 
mediation. 

■ Revelation is particularized with a view to universalization. 



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b) Historical Revelation and Natural Revelation: 

The natural - supernatural divide is seen by Thomism as being two-layered: 
natural concerns what pertains to the human being as such; whereas the supernatural is a 
free gift infused by God. This, however, creates a problem. By stressing the clear and 
radical distinction between the natural and supernatural, there was a tendency to lead to 
an opinion in which these two orders (natural and supernatural), appear as isolated and 
self-enclosed spheres of reality. In such a context, on the one hand, human nature was 
reduced to a pure nature without anything supernatural in it; whereas, on the other hand, 
the supernatural order of revelation and grace was conceived of as imposed on human 
nature by a decree of God from outside nature and outside human experience. Such a 
revelation tends to appear as a disturbance of our natural life; it will be blindly obeyed 
but remains basically unintelligible, because it responds to no need or desire grounded in 
natural experience and life in this world. 

To overcome this difficulty, in the course of history, a trend of thought called the 
Nouvelle Theologie tried to introduce the idea of the natural ordination of human nature 
towards a desire for God. However, this movement was criticized, especially in the 
encyclical of Pope Pius XII, Humani Generis for having compromised the quality of 
grace as a free gift and thereby undermining the supernatural realm. 

The dilemma seemed to be the following: If the supernatural were a free gift, it 
would be extrinsic and alien to human nature (the Thomistic position); on the other hand, 
if the supernatural were not extrinsic, its character of being a free gift would be seriously 
compromised (the stance of the Nouvelle Theologie). 

Karl Rahner poses his solution to the problem with what he calls the 
"Supernatural Existential". He does this, not by analyzing human nature, but by arguing 
from the universal salvific will of God, God has called all human beings to salvation; and 
this ordination of all people cannot be merely external to human nature. What Rahner 
calls the Supernatural Existential refers to the actual situation of the human world and 
history. All human beings have been raised up to the supernatural level right from the 
beginning, by the gracious and gratuitous and supernatural call of God; this is not their 
right or due as it is not a constituent part of human nature. In effect it means that in the 
concrete (existentially), human beings are all actually ordained to a single supernatural 
goal viz., to be partakers of the divine nature. This Supernatural Existential is not merely 
the dynamism of human nature; but a grace freely given to all. Christian revelation is a 
divine response to the human longing which has its source in this concrete (existential) 
human situation as stated by Vatican II "The dignity of man rests above all on the fact 
that he is called to communion with God" (GS n.l9; See also Catechism of the Catholic 
Church n. 27,28,29) 

c) Historical Revelation in the Indian Religious context 

The Indian attitude to changing reality is that it cannot communicate 
anything that is divine or transcendental. History which is concerned with the changing 
phenomenon of the world has no value as far as the divine revelatory process is 
concerned. Historical facts, in the Indian understanding, are only transitory examples - 



43 



often deceptive and always partial- of a reality that is always transhistorical (R. Panikkar, 
Myth. Faith and Hermeneutics p. 90). In order to arrive at the Divine it is necessary to go 
beyond the transitory. Hence revelation through history is not possible. Revelation in 
history is also not possible because what falls under sense perception is merely attributes 
and not the thing-in-itself The absolute Brahman is beyond the grasp of senses. This is 
beautifully expressed in Kenopanishad: "Eyes cannot perceive it, speech cannot express 
it, and the mind cannot conceive it. So we do no know how it can be taught" 
(Keonpanishad 1, 3). Therefore, according to Hinduism, historical revelation is not 
possible. 

2. THE EXPERIENTIAL CHARACTER OF CHRISTIAN REVELATION 

As a consequence of the historical intervention of God in the life of the people, 
God met them in their concrete, bodily, social existence. That means God communicated 
with human beings in the realm of personal experience and not in the realm of intellectual 
knowledge. We find this through out the Holy Scripture. God knows Israel and Israel 
knew Him in the intimate relationship of the covenant and not through rationalistic 
investigations. For the human beings it consisted in this: They take part in and, to some 
degree consciously grasp the meaning of, the historical events as relating them to God. 
For them it was an experience of God. It was an experience that affected them in their 
totality of being; their whole persons were involved in the act of receiving this revelation. 
Revelation was for them, therefore, the complex of experience, feeling and desire that a 
Personal encounter elicits. This is what we mean by saying that for the Jews revelation is 
an experience of God. We can divide this Jewish experience of God into three categories. 
All these have their basis and foundation in the historical revelation. 

A. REVELATION IN THE OLD TESTAMENT IS EXPERIENTIAL 

a) Experience of God in the Cosmic Events 

It is through her history primarily that Israel came to know Yahweh, when 
in Egypt she experienced His power to deliver her. Constant meditation on this 
manifestation of the power of Yahweh using the elements .of nature for the salvation of 
His people brought them to the realization .of the mastery .of Yahweh over nature and 
this ultimately made them believe in God as the creator of the universe. Israel understood 
that the same God who had raised her from the nothingness .of slavery had also raised the 
cosmos from nothingness. Since creation is something said by God it is also revelation. 
Created things are an echo of Him who called them into being; they manifest His 
presence. His majesty. His wisdom (Ps 19: 2-3; Job 25:7-14; Prov 8:22-31). 

b) Experience of God in the Revelation through Historical Events 

It began with Abraham, Moses and the prophets. It started with her 
founding through Abraham. The Exodus and the occupation of Canaan were recalled as 
being revelatory events. The events .of their history thus became far them events .of 
divine experience (cfr.Gen 12 and Ex 2 & 3). These experiences had various expressions 
in the Old Testament: Visions etc. 



AA 



c) Experience of God in the Word 

The acts of Yahweh are forms of revelation, just as the acts .of any person, 
manifests the reality .of the person; but the meaning .of the acts .of Yahweh can be 
understood only through the interpretation of Yahweh Himself For this interpretation, 
Yahweh used human beings. They were the leaders of Israel to whom the Word .of God 
was entrusted. This Word of God has a triple manifestation. Its forms are: i) Law or 
Torah ii) Prophecy Hi) Wisdom 

B. REVELATION IN THE NEW TESTAMENT IS AN EXPERIENCE OF GOD IN 
CHRIST 

a) The Revelation as Experience in the Person of Christ 
i) Christ, the Self-Revelation of God 

God revealed Himself in Jesus Christ through His teaching. In the Old Testament the 
Law and Word came directly from God. In fact we read in almost every page of the 
Old Testament, that God spoke to the leaders of the people. In the New Testament in 
the case of the teachings of Christ, it is He himself that speaks (Mt.5). 

God revealed Himself through the actions, appearance and gestures of Christ. Here 
we consider in a special way his miracles taken in themselves. We find that they are 
the signs of the presence of the Kingdom of God. They reveal the merciful love of 
God through His power (Mt. 12:28). 

The revelation in Christ is at the same time the revelation of the Holy Trinity; that is, 
the manifestation of the internal life of God Himself Christ explicitly says that the 
Father appears to men in the Son. Whoever sees him sees the Father (John. 14:9). 

ii) Christ the Recipient of Revelation: The man Jesus was the recipient of God's 
revelation and he fulfilled the vocation of the person of faith. In Christ, therefore, we 
have the revelation also of human person, as an essential partner in the encounter. Jesus 
did not present himself only as God speaking truths to be written down and learned by 
men. He presented Himself as the one who lived in prayerful communion with the Father 
and one who invited human beings to join with him in this communion of knowledge and 
love. 

Hi) The Glorified Christ, the Perfect Sharer of the Experience: The Glorified Christ is the 
fullness of revelation. We find that the double theme of Son revealing the Father (self- 
revelation of God), and the Father glorifying the Son (Christ, as the recipient of 
revelation) finds its perfect fusion at the "hour" to which his life is pointed. It was at that 
hour that God's love for the human person encountered the total responsiveness of human 
love in the person of Christ. At that time the revelation-redemption was accomplished. In 
that one act of the death and resurrection of Christ, the whole revelation history was 
recapitulated in Him. There was on the one hand the supreme revelation of God's self-gift 
to the world and on the other hand there was the supreme act of participating receptivity 
on the part of human person. Revelation as an experience of the human person reaches its 
fullness, therefore, only at the hour when Christ burst through the gates of death by 
handing over the Spirit. 



45 



b) The Apostles share in the consciousness of Christ and thus in his experience. 

One of the conditions required for continuing the mission of Christ in this world as 
the revealer of the message of salvation is to have had the experience of the Risen Lord. 
The Apostle is, therefore, a sharer in the experience of the Lord. This becomes evident 
from the following considerations: 

i) The privileged position of the Apostles: The Apostolic experience of Christ is the 
root, which forever grounds the life of the Church. Through them the 
global inclusion of all in the experience of the Risen Lord becomes 
particular and personal for all human persons. Their ministry was not 
therefore a mere verbal utterance. They had to reveal a person in whom 
there was the perfect realization of the encounter between God and human 
person. Therefore they could testify with their personal lives, 
ii) The Objectification of the Apostolic Experience of Revelation: We have spoken so 
far about the pre-conceptual basis of revelation, by calling it an 
experience. But this does not mean that in the New Testament there is no 
mention of the necessity of the conceptual, judgmental and verbal 
expression of revelation. If it is a personal experience, it must have also 
these characteristics. We cannot consider an experience truly human if it is 
incapable of objective expression. This is done by preaching. It is true that 
the concepts that we have do not express everything that we experience. 
The apostles knew more than they could express. One who experiences 
something deeply finds his or her words insufficient to express what he or 
she means. Seen in this perspective we see that in Christian revelation, 
there is always the possibility of evolution. But this evolution must be 
understood as the expression of the genuine experience. 

c) The Church, as the Sharer of the Experience of the Apostles 

As Christ sent the Apostles and made them sharers of his experience of the 
Father, so the apostles through their teaching made this experience a permanent reality in 
the Church. The fact of the risen Christ is a reality that is actual today. Christ's 
resurrection, therefore, as a fact of revelation, is present to all human persons of all times. 

C) REVELATION THROUGH EXPERIENCE 

The Holy Scripture is very clear on the fact that revelation or the Gospel 
proclamation is a factual and experienced event (Jn 1:1-3). Hence as we investigate the 
nature of revelation, it is necessary to discover the manner in which experience becomes 
a channel of revelation in Christian economy. 

a) What is Experience? 

It is ordinarily taken to be a source or special form of our knowledge, deriving from 
the immediate reception of the given or of the impression in contrast to discursive 
thought, mere concepts, authoritatively accepted opinions, or historical tradition. 
Experience is also used to designate the knowledge and sense of reality gained from 
contact in contrast to a "book of knowledge" which remains external. 



46 



i) Transcendental Experience is that which the human persons have by the fact 
that they have their being prior to all concrete modes of existence, out of experience, out 
of limited spiritual horizon. It is the awareness of a limitless openness to the world, 
history and finally to God as the one who is beyond all these empirical realities. It is the 
experience of totality. However, it is important to note here that such an experience is 
always the result of a mediated empirical experience. 

a) Historical Experience is that in which the human persons enter into events in 
their mutual connection and interaction. This experience being human is always 
relational. In Christian revelation in which God enters into human history and guides its 
course by being a co-traveler with human beings, it also acquires a religious dimension. 
No historical event remains without an effect on the present or future. It is like a stone 
that is thrown into the water, causing ripples. So every historical event is still happening. 
Even today it is an event. 

Hi) Religious Experience is one in which there is a living contact with God. In this 
sense all religions admit a certain form of religious experience, because personal 
movement towards God is essential to all religions. But there is no such thing as pure 
religious experience. It always implies moral, metaphysical and mystical elements, or is 
embedded in a historical process and institutions. 

b) Experiential Revelation 

Christian revelation being historical is an experience of God in history. We saw how the 
Bible presents the event of revelation as something, which has bearing upon experience. 
God reveals Himself through human experience. Hence we might also say that it reveals 
the true nature of the human being. Christian revelation is not only divine revelation, but 
also human revelation. It is the revelation of God through concrete human experiences of 
man's struggles and toils and efforts. The eternal God is revealed in the concrete human 
experience. 

c) Experiential Revelation in the context of India. 

In India the reality is conceived as one: the human, cosmic and divine are in 
reality one. The revelatory process consists in awakening our consciousness to this one 
reality, which is the self, the Atman. He through whom we see, taste, adore, touch, listen, 
enjoy, and knows all things: he is the self of everything (Katha Upanishad III, 13 - 15). 
Revelation is the process by which we become conscious, of this supreme reality through 
whom and in whom we know all other realities. The Vedic revelation is not primarily a 
thematic communication of esoteric facts, although certain passages of the Upanishads, 
disclose some truth that is unknown to the normal range of human experience. For the 
most part the Vedic revelation consists in an illumination, a becoming conscious of the 
reality which encompasses everything. It unfolds the relationship that exists within this 
reality. The means to realize this awareness or consciousness is through experience. It is 
expressed in Vedic period as hearing the Word OM, a resounding sound, the Divine 
Word which enlightens and communicates the content of the reality (R. Panikkar, The 
Vedic Experience pg. 1 ff). 



47 



The contemplative, meditative experience is at the source of this revelation. Later 
on, another factor enters into this revelatory process, Bhakti or Devotion. The best way to 
know God is through Bhakti. Sankara and Ramanuja relate bhakti to knowledge. On the 
one hand bhakti is the first step to Jnana. On the other bhakti matures through continuous 
meditation on the glory and grandeur of God. Then the soul attains the vision of God 
which leads to transfornlation of life. This means that in the acquisition of the knowledge 
of God, emotions play an important role. "By devotion he knows me, what my measure is 
and what I am essentially; then, having known me essentially, he enters forthwith into 
me" (Gita 1 8, 25). Hence in the revelatory process, experience plays a very crucial role. It 
is important to note here that experience excludes any intermediary, any third party that 
would render the experience impossible, by turning it into and experiment through its 
instrumentation (R. Panikkar, Myth, Faith and Hermeneutics pg. 298). The Hindu 
experience of God, therefore, is not historically mediated as in the case of the biblical 
experience of God. 

3. CHRISTIAN REVELATION: ITS INTERPERSONAL AND COMMUNITARIAN 
CHARACTER 

The historical and experiential character of revelation necessarily makes it 
become an event of personal relationship. In any genuine human experience human 
beings establish contact with other persons and this will result in bringing out the latent in 
each other. The partners are revealed and they enter into a new way of existence. The 
documents of Vatican II on Divine Revelation very clearly show this by speaking of 
revelation as an act that constitutes an encounter between the human person and God: 
"Through this revelation, therefore, the invisible God, out of the abundance of His love, 
speaks to men as friends and lives among them" (DV 2). 

A. THE INTERPERSONAL CHARACTER OF CHRISTIAN REVELATION 

a) Revelation in the Old Testament is Interpersonal 

The God of the Old Testament is not a power, but a person. Therefore revelation, 
as the Bible understands it, is personalistic in character. It is the self-revelation of one 
person to another person. In this it differs from the knowledge of the divinity or 
revelation of truths about God. It is not an experience of the divine in rituals or 
symbolism (e.g., in the mystery cult). It is not the result of divination, it is a person-to- 
person meeting. We shall examine some salient features of this personal encounter 
between God and the human person. 

1) Yahweh enters into a personal relationship with the human person 
(Gen.l2:l-3): 

/j "J" . "Thou" relationship is established between God and Abraham. There is a 
confrontation; a purpose and an intention are communicated by one party to the other. 

a) God has a plan. He requires the human being's personal co-operation to effect 
it. This plan consists in making the human persons enter into communion with God in 
view of their salvation 

Hi) This personal character will be the mark of identity of the God that the 
Israelites worship: He is the God of Abraham, i.e.; He is the God that has entered into 



48 



personal communion with human beings through an act of His self-revelation. The 
development of this encounter and the further acquaintance with Abraham's God make up 
the rest of the Old Testament. 

ii) Yahweh makes a covenant with humanity (Ex. 19:6): The core of this covenant 
is a communion of thought and will with Yahweh. God has revealed Himself to the 
Israelites. Such knowledge implies, in return on Israel's part, a total attachment to 
Yahweh through the bonds of faith, obedience and love. 

b) Revelation in the New Testament is an interpersonal union of the human person with 
God in Christ. The personal character of revelation attains its climax in the Incarnation. 

B. THE COMMUNITY NATURE OF CHRISTIAN REVELATION 

a) In the Old Testament 

The quintessence of divine revelation in the Old Testament is expressed in several 
places thus: "I will be your God, and you will be my people" (Ex 6:7; Lev 26:12). The 
historical events of the OT acquire meaning only when they are seen in the perspective of 
the plan of God to build up a community; the choice of Abraham, the events of Exodus 
etc. We might say: Israel herself as a people is the sign of divine revelation (Is 11:12). 

b) In the New Testament 

In the Synoptic Gospels, the essential content of revelation is the salvation offered 
to humanity under the figure of the Kingdom of God. For Paul, Christ the revelation of 
the Father is the word of reconciliation between God and man (2 Cor 5:18-19). The 
objectifi cation of revelation is the establishment of the Church. The Church is the 
mystery of Christ made visible (Eph 2:11-22). For John, the revelation of God through 
Christ becomes manifest on the cross, when he gathers together all peoples and opens his 
side as a sign of this gathering. In fact the Fathers of the Church will see in the piercing 
of the side of Christ, the birth of the new community. 

Revelatory experience is continued today in the community of the Church. The 
Church manifests the revelation in many ways. She plays her role as the bearer of the 
original revelation. She makes the revelation to happen today through the Church. She 
also celebrates her experience of the Risen Lord in the Liturgy. Every Eucharistic 
celebration is the revelation of the loving kindness of God manifested in Christ. She 
expresses her experience of the Lord through acts of Christian love. 



CHAPTER IV 
THE LANGUAGE OF CHRISTIAN REVELATION 

1. WORD AS THE SYMBOLIC LANGUAGE OF DIVINE REVELATION 

God's action in the establishment of interpersonal relationship is manifested by 
means of symbols. The word is one of the symbols that He has used in this process. In 



49 



revelation God always speaks. Hence our study of revelation calls for a serious 
examination of the meaning and role of the Word of God. The apostles claimed to be the 
spokespersons of Christ. Their words were put forth not as human words on a divine 
truth, but as words, which could bring the believer face to face with Christ, (Gal. 3: 1) and 
convey to the believer a share in the wisdom proper to the Son of God (Phil. 2: 5). The 
word that issued from this life in Christ and the word that mediated this knowledge of 
Christ was thus also spoken of as the "Word of God". Therefore we may note the 
following process in the articulation of the Word of God in the history of salvation. 

The Word comes into the world and manifests itself in creation, in history and in 
the words of Christ (which includes by recapitulation, the whole of the revealed Word). 
The prophets and the apostles proclaim these words by preaching and by celebrating the 
liturgy. They also wrote down these words. In this way the Word that is God came to all 
people. The preached and written words mediated belief in the risen Lord. 

a) What is the word in the Holy Scripture? 

The Hebrew 'dabar' unlike the Greek 'logos' and our 'word', means not only 
intelligible utterance, but over and above this, 'the effective power of the word'. It is 
dynamic. By His Word God called the world into existence. The Word of Yahweh is the 
distinctive determining power in Israel's history. 'Word' is often enough used to mean 
simply the occurrence itself In many biblical passages this fullness of meaning is 
primarily the key to correct interpretation, as for example in Heb 1:3; Ps 33:11; Is 5:19; 
28:29; 46:10; Jer.23:20. 

b) Word, as the medium of revelation in the Holy Scripture 

Although we spoke of word both as 'word' and as 'event', in the strict sense of the 
term 'word' is distinct from 'event'. Although revelation consisted primarily of God's 
saving activity, and thus of the history of the Jewish people, this history only acquired the 
full and pregnant significance of revelation when it was understood by the people of God 
through the interpretation by the prophets. The communication on the part of God 
through the historical events was interpreted by a human word on the part of the prophet. 
(Amos 3: 7; Is 42: 9; IPet 1: 20). 

Throughout the history of the Old Testament we see that the word has the place of 
preference in the communication of God to human beings, e.g., the call of Abraham, the 
theophanies of the burning bush and at Sinai. God appears not so much to be seen as to 
speak. God reveals His name; He reveals his will to His people in the ten words (Ex 
34:8). The religion of the Old Testament, and even more Judaism, is a religion of the 
Word of God to be heard, and obeyed (Dt 6: 4ff). Jesus appears as the teacher before men 
and women, gathering about him a circle of disciples. Christ presented as Messiah 
through his preaching: This is my beloved Son. Hear him (Mk 9: 7). The disciples, who 
continue the work of Christ by the service of the word (Lk 1:2; Acts 6:4). Not 
infrequently the revelation of salvation, as it is mediated by the Church, is simply 



50 



expressed in the formula: Logos - the Word, the Word of God, and the Word of the Lord 
(1 Thessl:6; 1 Cor 14:36; 2 Tim 4:2). 

c) Word as Mystery 

In every personal relationship there is an element of mystery. It is along this 
personalistic line that we are going to examine the mysteries that are found in Christian 
revelation. Seen from this perspective, mysteries become a sign of revelation, rather than 
an obstacle to understand the content of the revelatory event. Of course, this does not 
mean that our human intelligence is capable of understanding all the truths that regard 
God whom we meet in this personal encounter. 

a) The term 'Mystery' in the Non-Biblical World 

i) 'Mysterion' in ancient Greece. 

It is a secret cult by which a closer and a more personal union are established 
between the worshipper and the God whom he or she worships. Odo Casel defines it thus: 
"The mystery is a sacred ritual action in which a saving deed is made present through the 
rite; the congregation, by performing the rite, takes part in the saving act, and thereby 
wins salvation" (O. CASEL, The Mystery of Christian Worship, pg.54). We find here 
mystery almost a synonym of ritual symbols. Being a ritual action, it is outside the real 
event of interpersonal relationship although it is a means for arriving at such a 
relationship. Hence in ancient Greece mystery has a ritualistic connotation. 

a) Mystery in Hinduism. 

From the Upanishadic time, sacred doctrine was considered also secret doctrine, 
not to be imparted to those who are not qualified. Concerning the doctrine of Brahman 
and the path of attaining it, we read in Maitri Upanishad (6:29). 

"This profoundest mystery one should not mention to anyone who is not a son, or 
who is not a pupil, or who is not tranquil; however, to one who is devoted to none other 
than his teacher or to one who is supplied with all qualities, one may give it". (Cf Brhad 
6: 3, 12;Mund3:2,ll;Svet6:22). 

The sacred instruction about the nature of Atman is given only after many years, 
e.g., in the instruction imparted by Prajapati (Chand, Up 8,7ss.) because "he obtains all 
worlds, and all desires who has found out and who understands the Atman" (8, 12, 16). 
Touching is the story of Upakosala who dwells 12 years in the house of his teacher 
without receiving instruction and falls sick, until the sacred fires themselves begin to 
speak to him and explain the nature oi Brahma (Chand 4, lOss). Also Gita speaks of the 
most hidden knowledge (guhavati-aman) which is pronounced by Krishna: It consists in 
the relation between God and the world: "All this world is pervaded by me in my 
unmanifested form; all beings exist in me, but I do not dwell in them" (9, 1,4). It is the 
doctrine of divine immanence and transcendence. 

Hence it appears that in Indian tradition the intimate doctrines on the ultimate 
reality of Brahma and Atman, of life and its final destiny, of Karma, of the word and 



51 



God's presence in all beings were considered as esoteric teachings which were restricted 
to the circle of family and pupils, and could be imparted only to those who were disposed 
to receive them. Still these doctrines are not mysteries in the sense that they essentially 
transcend human understanding. Those who are properly initiated can understand them. 
Thus in Hinduism, mystery has a religious connotation. 

b) The term 'Mystery' in the Holy Scriptures 

We may state that for Paul 'Mystery" is 'the divine plan of salvation, hidden from 
all eternity and now revealed, through which God establishes Christ as the centre of His 
new economy of salvation, constituting him through his death and resurrection, the one 
sole principle of salvation, both for the Gentiles and for the Jews, the Head of all persons, 
angels and human beings. Concretely the mystery is Christ". (Latourelle). We can 
distinguish different stages in the unfolding of this plan: 

i) 'Mystery' as the plan of God for our salvation 

It is the eternal plan hidden in God and revealed in time through Christ and His 
apostles, "...the message which was a mystery hidden for generations and centuries and 
has now been revealed to his saints" (Col:25-26; cfr. also Eph 1:9-10; Eph 3:6). The 
Mystery here is not to be considered as something that is merely unknown. . It is the 
reality of the sphere into which human being cannot enter. God enables us to enter into it 
through His revealing action. He does not merely make human persons know the truths 
that He has hidden, but He makes them capable of receiving the Mystery by exalting their 
whole being and transforming it. He truly initiates them into the Kingdom of God 
liberating them from the kingdom of sin. 

ii) 'Mystery' is the realization of the plan in Christ 

This initiation or revelation of the Mystery to human persons takes place in and 
through Christ. The Son of God Incarnate becomes the Mystery and that is how Paul 
describes Christ: "It was God's purpose to reveal it to them and to show all the riches and 
glory of this mystery to the pagans. The Mystery is Christ is among you your hope of 
glory" (Col 1:26-29; 1 Tim 3:16)). The content of this Mystery is presented as the 
Paschal Christ. This is evident from the text of the letter to Timothy which we have 
quoted above, as well as from the following passage from the first letter to the 
Corinthians: "As for me brothers, when I came to you, it was not with any show of 
oratory or philosophy, but simply to tell you what God guaranteed (the 'mystery of God' 
as some manuscripts have it). During my stay with you, the only knowledge I claimed to 
have was about Jesus and only about Him as the crucified Christ" (1 Cor.2: 1). The 
Mystery of God that was hidden, therefore, is Christ. He is the Logos, the eternal plan of 
God, made visible in order to bring human beings into the Kingdom of God. The Mystery 
is the Christ event. 

Hi) Mystery is salvation in Christ, made available through the ministry of the 
Apostles. 

The apostles are the ministers of the plan of salvation manifested in Christ. The 
apostles were sent to proclaim the death and resurrection of Christ. Through their 
ministry, they made Christ, the Mystery, present among the nations: "The Mystery is 
Christ among you, your hope of glory: this is the Christ we proclaim" (Col 1: 27). 



52 



"People must think of us as Christ's servants, stewards entrusted with the mysteries of 
God" (1 Cor 4:1). The apostles, through their ministry of the mysteries of God bring all 
the nations into the same heritage as Israel, making them belong to the people of God. 
They do this by proclaiming the death and resurrection of Christ in word and rite. 

c) Mystery, a sign of the interpersonal character of revelation 

In the person of Jesus the totality of God's actions and intentions on behalf of 
humanity constitute the pattern of an incomprehensible whole outside of which the 
human being cannot go. Every religious truth, every truth that concerns their relationship 
with God and their final destiny, can be understood only in the light of Christ. This is the 
saving knowledge. They attain to it only by relating themselves personally to Jesus Christ 
through love. "I call you friends because I have made known to you everything I have 
learnt from my Father" (Jn 15: 15). It is the awareness of the presence of the human 
person to .God in Christ; this transcends by far the knowledge through concepts and it is 
precisely here that we have the Mystery. If this knowledge of the mystery is absent our 
religious knowledge will be conceptual and would lack the personal element. 

Another characteristic of mystery according to Paul is that of the community of 
persons that continues to exist today in the Christ of today, namely the Church. We know 
that the basis on which the Church rests is love. The mystery, which is revealed in Christ 
continues to manifest itself in the realization of the love among human beings, in spite of 
their differences of race, caste and creed. All understand one another and find their 
common belonging and the common destiny, their salvation as members of the same 
family by entering into this Mystery. 

d) Mystery, a signs of the experiential character of revelation 

The meeting between the human person and God, which transcends the category 
of concepts, is realized, we said above, in personal depth. Here we have an experiential 
awareness of the other. In the experience of an encounter there exists a dynamism which 
enables the persons to meet the other not from outside, but from within. This experiential 
knowledge grows not through a process of reasoning and discovery of concepts, but 
through a process of growth in relationship. It is this that is realized in the history of 
salvation, which has its climax in Jesus Christ. Since this experience is to some extent 
ineffable we cannot always formulate them in propositions. Therefore we call it a 
Mystery. 

2. MIRACLE AS THE SYMBOLIC LANGUAGE OF DIVINE REVELATION 

A. What is a miracle? 

A miracle is an extraordinary and, therefore, astounding event which is 
inexplicable in terms of familiar causes and, therefore, perceived as involving a breach of 
the usual natural order resulting from a direct or indirect divine intervention. Since 
miracles in the proper sense have a necessary religious context they can be recognized as 



53 



such only by a person who believes in or at least is disposed to believe in God and admits 
the possibility of the divine power being operative in this world. The impact of miracles 
as revelatory events varies from person to person and is dependent on their context and 
how they are actually experienced and the disposition of the person who experiences 
them. Miracles may lead a person to believe in God or the mediator of revelation and to 
accept the revelation as authentic and, thus, can have confirmatory function; as symbolic 
events they can be media of divine revelation and part of the revelatory process. Miracles 
directly experienced by a person have greater effects than reports of miracles, the 
effectiveness of which depends on the credibility of the reports. 

B. Biblical Miracles 

The Bible contains reports of extraordinary divine interventions as part of the 
Biblical narrative. For the Bible nature is not a closed system of law, but is dependent on 
and controlled by God, and as such it is the stage for the works of God. Miracles 
according to the Bible are occurrences sufficiently startling, unusual and unexpected to 
call attention to themselves which faith recognizes as special acts of God. The miracle 
narratives of the Bible are the result of occurrences experienced and interpreted as divine 
interventions; accounts of which were handed down incorporating further insights into 
their significance. They are not so much "historical" accounts of what happened as part of 
the kerygma of God's saving intervention in human history meant to instill and foster 
faith. 

C. The Official Teachings of the Church 

a) I Vatican Council 

In ch. 3 of the Dogmatic Constitution De/ F///'m^ the council bas stated, "...in order 
that our submission of faith be nevertheless in harmony with reason God willed that 
exterior proofs of his revelation, viz. divine facts, especially miracles and prophecies, 
should be joined to the interior helps of the Holy Spirit; as they manifestly display the 
omnipotence and infinite knowledge of God, they are the most certain signs of divine 
revelation, adapted to the intelligence of all people" (CF 119). And in canons 3 and 4 of 
the chapter the Council has condemned the views "that the divine revelation cannot be 
made credible by outward signs, and that, therefore, people ought to be moved to faith 
solely by each one's inner experience or by personal inspiration" and "that no miracles are 
possible, and that therefore all accounts of them, even those contained in Holy Scripture, 
are to be dismissed as fables and myths; or that miracles can never be recognized with 
certainty, and that the divine origin of the Christian religion cannot be legitimately 
proved by them" (CF 127, 128). 

b) Encyclical Letter Humani Generis of Pius XII 

The Pope is realistic in his assessment of the criteria of divine revelation when he 
acknowledges, "Difficulties may occur to the human mind ...in forming a firm judgment 
concerning the credibility of the Catholic faith, though we are provided with such a 



54 



wealth of wonderful exterior signs by which the divine origin of the Christian religion 
can be proved with certainty even by the natural light of reason alone. But a person may 
be guided by prejudices, may be influenced by passions and ill intentions, and so can turn 
away from and resist not only the evidence of the exterior signs which is plain to the 
eyes, but also the heavenly inspirations which God conveys to our minds" (CF 146). 

c) . II Vatican Council 

In the Dogmatic Constitution Dei Verbum instead of seeing the miracles as 
exterior proofs of revelation the Council speaks of them as constituent part of the 
revelation (n.2). At the same time they have also a confirmative function: "[Jesus Christ] 
completed and perfected revelation and confirmed it with divine guarantees. He did this 
by the signs and miracles, but above all by his death and glorious resurrection from the 
dead, and finally by sending the Spirit of truth" (n.4). Lumen Gentium acknowledges that 
"the miracles of Jesus also demonstrate that the kingdom [of God] has already come on 
earth" (n. 5). And the Declaration on Religious Liberty (Dignitatis Humanae n. 11) 
affirms that Christ "supported and confirmed his preaching by miracles to arouse the faith 
of his hearers and give them assurance, but not to coerce them." 

Conclusion 

Miracles reveal the saving presence of God in the world. We can call the Exodus 
and the Resurrection as the basic events of this revealing presence and therefore they are 
the foundation miracles of the people of God, of the Old and the New Covenant. Each of 
these supreme biblical miracles is preceded by other, lesser miracles, which call attention 
to the true significance of the supreme miracles and prepare for them. Before the Exodus 
come the plagues of Egypt and before the death and resurrection of Christ the healings, 
exorcisms (the casting out of the demons) and the so-called nature miracles, the plagues 
of Egypt were preliminary judgments on Pharaoh, warning him of worse to come if he 
remained obdurate. The miracles of Jesus are preliminary rounds in the final conflict with 
the powers of evil, or the preliminary manifestations of the final revelation of the glory of 
the final revelation of the glory of God fully revealed on the cross. 



CHAPTER V 

CHRIST EVENT, THE CLIMAX OFCHRISTIAN REVELATION 

1. THE CHRIST EVENT 

The simple title of "Word" ('Logos') which John applies to Jesus is perhaps the 
most sublime affirmation in the NT, that Jesus is the self-manifestation of God (Jn 1:14; 
also Col 1:15-17; Heb 1:1-3). John came to the realization that which he heard, saw and 
touched was "that which was from the beginning... the word of life" (1 Jn 1:1). Hence 
Jesus is also called 'Emmanuel' , which means, God with us (Mt 1:23). We 'read of 
Moses, that the Lord used to speak to him "face to face, as a man speaks to his friend" 



55 



(Ex 33:11). Through Jesus, this experience was repeated for people in an unsurpassed 
manner. The NT is aware that "in these last days he has spoken to us by a Son" (Heb 1 :2). 
The voice which spoke the word of Yahweh in the OT confirms Jesus as His Son at his 
baptism and at his transfiguration (Mk 1:11; 9:7). No wonder that Jesus' teaching 
supersedes that of even Moses, through whom Yahweh gave the Law to His People. This 
is seen in the Sermon on the Mount (Mt 5:22, 28; 7:28-29) and in other texts (Mt 12:6-8; 
19:9; Lk 11:31). He never uses the usual prophetic formulae, 'Thus says the Lord', but 
speaks with his own authority. Likewise Jesus exorcizes and works miraculous healings 
in his own name and not in the name of Yahweh, as would have been expected. It is clear 
that he does not fit into any of the categories of religious figures of his day. 

In the life of Jesus, historic event and word of God are identical. Hence in going 
to see the new born babe, the shepherds say to one another: "Let us go over to Bethlehem 
and see this thing (' rhema' in Greek) that has happened (Lk 2:15). 'Rhema' means 
word, but stands in Semitic thought for the Hebrew 'dabhar' which also means 'thing' or 
'event'. To see Jesus is to see the Father (Jn 14:9). Mt 11:25-27 is a most formal text 
concerning revelation (see: NJBC 42:75). The Father {Abba) address occurs five times in 
these thee verses. Through this unusual address Jesus revealed himself as living in an 
altogether unique relationship with God. "All things have been delivered to me by my 
Father": This verse, with the parallel verses of Mt 28:18 and Jn 3:35; 10:15; 13:3, tell us 
that no one can reveal the face of God to us better than Jesus does, for he is himself the 
personal tradition of God. "No one knows..." this verse reiterates Jesus' unique 
relationship of intimacy with the Father, in virtue of which he is able to reveal to us 
hidden depths of God. Thus he revealed to us the Trinitarian nature of God, which could 
never be otherwise known. Of course he did this, not in formal doctrinal formulations but 
in speaking about his mission for our salvation, which would require that "the Counselor 
comes, whom I shall send to you from the Father... who proceeds from the Father" (Jn 
15:26). 

By "Christ event" we understand the whole life of Jesus including his Passover 
through death to glory "at the right hand of God" (Mk 16:19; Acts 7:55). God speaks to 
us not only through the words of Jesus but also through his whole life and deeds. Hence 
the decisive events in his life, which culminates in the paschal mystery, contain the 
central data of revelation. This revelation discloses the ultimate truth about human life: 
"Moreover, he confirmed with divine testimony what revelation proclaimed: that God is 
with us to free us from the darkness of sin and death, and to raise us up to life eternal" 
(DV 4). 

The apostles and early Church were keenly aware of this. Hence in their 
preaching they constantly proclaim, as the center of their message, that this Jesus "they 
put to death by hanging him on a tree; but God raised him on the third day" (Acts 10:39- 
40). This they preach to both Jews (Acts 2:23-24; 3:15; 4:10; 5:30; 17:3) and Gentiles, 
even at the risk of being mocked (Acts 17:31-32) as mad men (Acts 26:23), for the 
message is "a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles" (1 Cor 1:23). In Paul's creed, 
it is "of first importance" that Christ died for our sins.... that he was buried, that he was 
raised on the third day in accordance with the scriptures" (1 Cor 15:3-4). It is one of the 



56 



'kairoV or particular moments chosen by the Father as turning points in salvation history 
(Jn 7:6; Mt 26:18). This also forms the center of the Trinitarian framework of the 
Apostles' Creed which is professed by all the Christian churches. It is this, more than the 
moral teaching of Jesus, which forms the Church's original, unique and irreplaceable 
message to the world, a message which is of crucial importance for humanity. It is no 
wonder, then, that Easter was the first and only feast in the earliest centuries of the 
Christian era, and every Sunday was celebrated as a mini-Easter. In fact Easter is the 
central feast around which all the other feasts of the liturgical year rotate. Vatican II 
stressed: "The Lord's day is the original feast day .... which is the foundation and nucleus 
of the whole liturgical year" (SC 106). 

In conclusion we may say, that in Jesus the movement from cosmic to historical 
revelation took a decisive step, for in him the Word through whom all things were made 
(cosmic revelation) became man (historical revelation). God himself entered immediately 
as the one who acts in human history. The world is shown to have a personal center from 
which it has its meaning and destiny: history is not enclosed within meaningless cycles of 
yugas and kalpas. So the Church "holds that in her most benign Lord and Master can be 
found the key, the focal point, and the goal of all human history" (GS 10; 45). 

2. NO NEW PUBLIC REVELATION 

The Christ event made such an impression on the apostles so as to bring them to 
the realization that they were encountering the ultimate in revelation. Hence these are the 
"last days" (Heb 1:2), in which "we now await no further new public revelation before the 
glorious manifestation of Our Lord Jesus Christ" (DV 4). A public revelation is one in 
which the custody of the matter revealed is entrusted to the Church. This revelation is 
handed down in the Church through sacred Tradition and sacred Scripture, under the 
supervision of the teaching office (DV 10). During the debate on the "Dogmatic 
Constitution on Divine Revelation" at Vatican II, a proposed amendment to the effect that 
Revelation was "closed" with the death of the Apostles was rejected by the Doctrinal 
Commission. For in fact, Christ "speaks when the holy Scriptures are read in the Church" 
(SC 7; DV 21), and the Holy Spirit leads the Church into all truth (Jn 14:26; 16:12-15; 
DV8). 

However, as DULLES explains, this is "not new revelation in the sense of 
providing anything that could serve as an additional or independent norm of faith, over 
and above Christ and the gospel. The future will fulfill what has already been given, 
rather than abolish it. In Christ, we already possess, in symbol and mystery, a share in the 
final kingdom" (237-8). Thus St Paul contrasts our present and eschatological condition: 
"For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall 
understand fully" (1 Cor 13:12; also 1 Jn 3:2). What happened in and through Jesus 
cannot "be superseded by any future events, because in him precisely the end of all things 
has occurred" or been anticipated (PANNENBERG 60). In him "that which is ultimately 
valid and meaningful has already pre-occurred" (ibid. 89). Hence he is the goal of all 
history and we now look forward to the revelation of God which will end history (GS 
45). Even though the action of God outside the Church is not a mere repetition of what 



57 



God has been doing in the Church, nevertheless what has been revealed in Jesus Christ 
cannot be equaled, surpassed or, much less, cancelled out by any past or future revelation. 

Against this background we will understand, that private revelations are not new 
assertions adding so to say to the body of revelation, but rather new commands, showing 
how Christians should act in a concrete historical situation. Divine prophecies, warn us 
against worldly optimism; they recall us to penance, conversion, prayer, and trust in the 
victory of Christ, hope in God eternal. Genuine private revelations will lead us to a 
deeper understanding and application of the public revelation which is entrusted to the 
Church. 



CHAPTER VI 

CHRISTIAN REVELATION, AN ON-GOING PROCESS 



The Church is an active and intelligent custodian of divine revelation. She "keeps 
all these things, pondering them in her heart" even if there are some things which she 
"did not understand" (Lk 2:19,50-51). So she may rightly be called 'the Mary of history'. 
In this sense the Church always believes more than what she teaches because "there is a 
growth in the understanding of the realities and the words which have been handed down. 
This happens through the contemplation and study made by believers ... through the 
intimate understanding of spiritual things they experience, and through the preaching of 
those who have received through Episcopal succession the sure gift of truth" (DV 8). 
Thus it is that "the Church, in her teaching, life, and worship, perpetuates and hands on to 
all generations all that she herself is, all that she believes" (ibid.). St Vincent of Lerins 
likens this process to the development of a seed into a tree or of an embryo into an adult 
person: a "growth within the limits of its own nature", just as "nothing new is produced in 
old men that were not already present in an undeveloped form when they were boys". 

The fact of God's communication to humanity, also outside the Church, is an 
important factor in developing a deeper insight into revelation and its implications for our 
life and world. Therefore it is necessary to be sensitive not only to sacred Scripture and 
other inner Church resources, but also to God's presence and action in other religious and 
secular movements and events. To fail to do so would be to exclude a large part of what 
the Spirit is saying to the churches. This could only impoverish the Church's mission and 
grasp of revelation. 

1 . ENCOUNTERING GOD'S REVELATION IN TODAY'S WORLD 

A. In the Context of Religious Pluralism 
a) Biblical basis: 

The Bible affirms God's communication with all people from the beginning of 
history. Wisdom which "came forth from the mouth of the Most High" was present and 
active throughout history: "in every people and nation I have gotten a possession" (Sir 



58 



24.6). Like the wind, the Spirit's action is universal: blowing where it wills (Jn 3:8). If the 
people of the cosmic covenant could receive the gift of faith (Heb 11:4-7), we are not 
surprised to see in them other "fruits of the Spirit" (Gal 5:22-23), by which they "put to 
death the deeds of the body" (Rom 8:13). This is to be expected since the Christ event has 
universal repercussions: "God was in Christ reconciling the world to himself (2 Cor 5:19; 
see also Col 1:19-20; Eph 1:22). 

The Bible implicitly acknowledges the divine inheritance in other religions, when 
it integrates elements from these into the biblical revelation. The biblical narrative 
witnesses to a fascinating process, by which divine revelation entered into and grew from 
within already existing cultures and religions in West Asia, without losing its challenge 
and originality. It was "a wonderful exchange" (AG 22) which anticipated that of the 
Incarnation. What the people of Israel brought with them into the land of Canaan was a 
faith in the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, "the Lord our God who brought us and Our 
fathers up from the land Egypt, out of the house of bondage" (Josh 24:17). This historical 
revelation both challenged and utilized the pre-existing Canaanite culture and religion, 
which was essentially a nature religion tied to the cycles of nature. In all this interaction 
the Bible is discerning and critical, so that the following were rejected as being 
inconsistent with the revelation received: idolatry (Dt 13:19), occult arts and magic (Dt 
18:9-14), temple prostitution (Dt 23:18-19), human sacrifice (Dt 12:29-31; Jer 7:31). 

b) The Patristic tradition 

In affirming, that "doubtless the Holy Spirit was already at work in the world 
before Christ was glorified" (AG 4) Vatican II refers to a sermon of St Leo the Great: "It 
is not that the Holy Spirit only then (at Pentecost) began for the first time to dwell in holy 
persons, but he wanted that the hearts which were already holy should be more fervent 
and more copiously filled... the fact that (at Pentecost) his bounty was rich does not mean 
that his action was new" (Sermon 77/1). Ambrosiaster originated the following saying, 
which was popular among the medieval theologians: "All truth, no matter where it comes 
from, is from the Holy Spirit." 

In the Fathers, we find on the one hand harsh rebukes for pagan practices which 
poisoned public life and posed a constant temptation to Christians to fall into superstition 
and immorality. On the other hand, they speak favorably about many who lived before 
Christ and thereby elaborate principles which may be applied also to people living after 
Christ. Their reflections are based on the theology of the Logos. While avoiding the 
pantheistic connotations of the Greek "Logos", they assert his presence and saving action 
at all times. 

A certain priest forwarded to St. Augustine a question posed to him by a non- 
Christian: if Christ really is the salvation of all, why did he allow people for so many 
centuries to worship other gods? (Ep. 102). He replied with his famous distinction 
between the sign ("sacramentum") and the reality ("res") signified; the latter refers to the 
saving grace of God in Jesus Christ. The signs change, but point always at the same 
reality: "Therefore all those whosoever believed in him from the beginning .of the human 
race, and however they understood him, and lived according to his command in 
obedience and in justice, wherever and whenever this took place, they found salvation 



59 



through him. We believe in him as remaining with the Father and come in the flesh; they 
believed in him as being with the Father, and to come in the flesh... But only one and the 
same religion is signified and observed, under other names and signs once and today; 
formerly more hidden, later more manifest; once by few, now by more." Elsewhere he 
writes: "The same thing (res) which now is called Christian religion, was also with the 
old; it was not lacking from the beginning of the human race, until Christ himself came in 
the flesh; thence the true religion, which existed already, began to be called 'Christian'" 
(ML 32/603). He continues the same line of thought in his distinction of the two cities, 
the city of man and the city of God. These two cities are created by two loves: love of self 
to the denial of God; and love of God to the denial of self 

c) Teaching of the Church Vatican II 

The Council notes, that "from the start God manifested himself to our first 
parents" (DV 3). The Council implicitly acknowledges the action of the Holy Spirit in the 
other religious traditions when it recognizes "seeds of the Word" in them and that they 
"often reflect a ray of that truth which enlightens all people" (NA 2). In keeping with the 
universal scope of Christ's redemptive mission, the Council affirms the presence and 
operation of the Spirit among all peoples, from the beginning of history: "The Spirit of 
the Lord fills the earth .... man is constantly worked upon by God's Spirit" (GS 11; 41). 
The striving to make life more human is inspired by Christ and his Spirit: "Christ is now 
at work in the hearts of people through the energy of his Spirit" (GS 38). Indeed, "Grace 
works in an unseen way" in the hearts of all persons of good will: "For, since Christ died 
for all persons, and since the ultimate vocation of the person is in fact one and divine, we 
ought to believe that the Holy Spirit in a manner known only to God offers to every 
person the possibility of being associated with this paschal mystery" (GS 22). 

Vatican II speaks of "the spiritual and moral goods... values, in their society and 
culture" (NA 2) found among the followers of other religions; also "the elements of 
goodness and truth which such religions possess by God's providence" (OT 16; LG 16). 
Believers of other religions "preserve in their traditions precious elements of religion and 
humanity" (GS 92). Good is found to be sown not only in the cultures but also often in 
the religious rites peculiar to various peoples; "truth and grace are to be found among the 
nations, as a sort of secret presence of God" (AG 9). The seeds of ascetic and 
contemplative traditions "were sometimes already planted by God in ancient cultures 
prior to the preaching of the gospel" (AG 18). "Seeds of the word" lie hidden in the 
national and religious traditions of the Peoples (AG 11) and are "a preparation for the 
gospel" (LG 16). 

At the same time the Council acknowledges that the religions are tainted by "sin" 
(AG 8), "evil" (AG 9) and "error" (LG 17). So whatever good is found in them, needs to 
be "healed, ennobled and perfected" by being restored to Christ its maker (LG 9; see also 
GS 16). Hence the approach to the religions needs to be a discerning one. 

Conclusion: 

"History is from beginning to end is a history of salvation, that is, a dialogue 



60 



initiated by God with humankind from the dawn of time which through distinct phases is 
leading humankind to God's appointed destiny" (Dupuis 45). There has been 'revelation', 
an authentic divine-human encounter from the beginning of history, even though its 
expression may not always be accurate. The Word who enlightens every person from the 
beginning cannot act contrary to the same Word incarnate in Jesus. Likewise the Spirit 
whose presence and activity has affected individuals, cultures and religions is "the Spirit 
of Jesus" (Acts 16.7) and can only act in harmony with what He did and said (Jn 16:14; 
14:26). This need not mean that God's action outside the Church is a mere repetition of 
what God is doing in the Church. For the Christian in India faced with a overabundance 
of religious teachings and practices, the normative criterion to discern divine truth can 
only be the person and event of Jesus Christ, 'the Jesus Christ event'. 

Given the bodily and social nature of the human person, it was inevitable that 
people should seek to give expression to what the Word and Spirit have been doing in 
their lives. This they have accomplished in religious rites, scriptures and traditions: these 
may be found inadequate or mingled with some errors, when measured against the 
criterion of the revelation in Christ. This does not detract from the fact that they remain a 
witness to the marvelous action of the Spirit in the lives of these people. That is why the 
Bible was able to integrate such a large inheritance from non-biblical religions and 
cultures. For this reason, the Catholic Church "looks with sincere respect upon those 
ways of conduct and of life, those rules and teachings which, though differing in many 
particulars from what she holds and sets forth, nevertheless often reflect a ray of that 
Truth which enlightens all people" (NA 2). 

Grace is universal, but its source, goal and revelation is Christ. Therefore we may 
adopt the following "Conclusions" of the 'Bombay Conference' (1964). Christian 
universalism, which is "grounded and centered in Christ", is "equally far removed from 
narrow intolerant particularism and from enfeebling agnostic indifferentism". The Church 
must live "not in passive coexistence, but in active proexistence", through fraternal 
communion ('koinonia'), humble service (' diakonia') and "an attitude of witnessing, and 
prayer for and with the world" ('kerygma') (Neuner 21-24) 

B. In the Context of Events and Movements: Signs of the Times: The phrase 
'signs of the times" (Mt 16.2-4) recurs in several documents of Vatican II: GS 4; PO 9; 
DR 4; DH 15; SC 43; AA 14. The idea appears more often (GS 26). It refers to a 
theological interpretation of present-day events, with a view to discerning God's call for 
the Church today. The Council explains how the People of God "endeavors to discern the 
true signs of God's presence and purpose in the happenings, needs and desires which this 
People share with the people of our age" (GS 11). The prophetic charism provides insight 
into the real meaning of the events from God's point of view, so as to discern his action 
and his will for his people. This is a task which involves the whole People of God: "With 
the help of the Holy Spirit, it is the task of the entire People of God, especially pastors 
and theologians, to hear, distinguish, and interpret the many voices of our age, and to 
judge them in the light of the divine Word. In this way, revealed truth can always be 
more deeply penetrated, better understood, and set forth to greater advantage" (GS 44). 



61 



It emerges from the foregoing survey of biblical and magisterial texts, that the 
presence and activity of the Holy Spirit is clearly acknowledged also outside the Church: 
both in other religious traditions as well as in 'secular' movements which aim at a more 
humane society "founded on truth, built on justice, and animated by love" (GS 26). 
Christians are to discern this presence and activity of the Holy Spirit, in order to 
collaborate better with God's design. Hence the Church desires a dialogue with all people, 
carried out with love and prudence, "to compel us all to receive the inspirations of the 
Spirit faithfully and to measure up to them energetically" (GS 92). 

a) In the context of globalization 

Today people are keenly aware of the phenomenon of 'globalization'. Although 
the process may be said to have begun centuries ago, with the growing interaction of 
peoples among themselves, it has accelerated with unprecedented speed in modern times. 
This interaction is marked by quick communications across all boundaries, by 
international organizations and by interdependent economies on a world scale, so that it is 
customary to refer to our 'global village'. No people can live in isolation any more. Such 
is the direction in which the human family is unavoidably moving. This is the result, not 
of cosmic, but of historical forces. 

. Vatican II drew attention to this reality and tried to show its implications for the 
Church: "Today the bonds of mutual dependence become increasingly close between all 
citizens and all the peoples of the world... Although the world of today has a very vivid 
sense of its unity and of how one person depends on another in needful solidarity, it is 
most grievously torn into opposing camps by conflicting forces" (GS 4; 84; also 77). This 
forms the context of the conciXiar Declaration on the Relationship of the Church to Non- 
Christian Religions: "In our times, when every day people are being drawn closer 
together and the ties between various peoples are being multiplied, the Church is giving 
deeper study to her relationship with non-Christian religions" (n. 1). Out of the pastoral 
concern to "foster unity and love among people, and even among nations", the 
Declaration goes on to stress what human beings have in common, without denying 
differences. 

There is one God and a single plan of salvation, according to which all people are 
meant to grow into closer communion with each other and with God, in bonds of love 
and service. This divine plan has been unfolding according to the growth of humankind. 

2. TOWARDS FULLNESS OF REVELATION 

Jesus as the Word become man fulfils a unique and unsurpassable role as the 
revealer of the Father. He "fulfills revelation by completing it" (DV 4), so' that in him 
"the full revelation of the supreme God is brought to completion" (DV 7). He exists as 
"the fullness of all revelation" (DV 2). At the same time the Council is careful to assert 
that "the Church constantly moves forward towards the fullness of divine truth" (DV 8), 
which is an eschatological reality (1 Cor 13:12). Thus Pope John Paul II observes, that 
"every truth attained is but a step towards that fullness of truth which will appear with the 



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final Revelation of God" (FR 2). The Church has not yet attained that fullness. This is 
consonant with the fact that the Holy Spirit leads the Church into all truth (Jn 16:12-15). 
The perspective is based on the distinction (without separation) between Christ and the 
Church. Undoubtedly Jesus Christ is personally the fullness of revelation and in him, in 
the total Jesus Christ event (comprising his person, life, death and resurrection), God has 
spoken to the world his decisive word: "It is owing to his personal identity as Son of God 
that Jesus Christ is, properly speaking, the pinnacle and culmination of the revealed 
word" (Dupuis 249). But the pilgrim Church continues to progress towards "a daily more 
complete and profound awareness", of that revealed Word (FC 10). 

Vatican II has reminded us, that though revelation includes a deposit of truths to 
be known and assented to, it is much more a personal encounter involving self-surrender. 
Thus a joint statement (1991) of the Pontifical Council for Inter-Religious Dialogue and 
the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples observes: "in the last analysis truth is 
not a thing we possess, but a person by whom we must allow ourselves to be possessed. 
This is an unending process"(?'ro Dialogo, 1996/3: 335). The central and most 
fundamental data of revelation is full and needs nothing more to be added to it: the 
paschal mystery which climaxes the historical life and message of the incarnate Word. 
Yet it remains the unending task of the Church to draw out the full significance and 
implications of this Jesus Christ event for human being's life and future and for the world. 
In this task the Church benefits greatly from humanity in general, its cultures and 
religions: "the Church herself knows how richly she has profited by the history and 
development of humanity" (GS 44). For this reason. Pope John Paul II can speak of 
"mutual enrichment" and "mutual advancement on the road of religious inquiry and 
experience" through dialogue with the followers of other religions (RM 55-56). In this 
relationship of complementarity, the light of the Jesus Christ event will also illuminate 
the full significance of the riches in the religions. 



CHAPTER VII 
FAITH, AS RESPONSE TO THE REVEALING GOD 

1. INTRODUCTION 

Revelation is the self-manifestation of God to humankind with a view to enter 
into relationship with them. It is a dialogue between God and human person, initiated by 
God. This calls for a response on the part of the human person. This response is faith. 
Vatican II describes it in these words: "Obedience of faith must be given to God as he 
reveals himself By faith man freely commits his entire self to God, making the full 
submission of his intellect and will to God who reveals and willingly assenting to the 
Revelation given by him" (DV n.5). 



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In divine faith we accept in the first place a person: Jesus Christ. Faith is our 
openness and acceptance to the Word Incarnate. So our first effort before arriving at faith 
is to recognize the presence of this person. This is done through the treatise on revelation. 
Then we accept Him opening ourselves to Him. This is done through faith, Baptism and 
the life with the Risen Lord. It is the response, vital response of the human person to 
Christ (Cfr Dei Verbum). Since faith is the experience of a personal relationship of the 
human being with God a tension or crisis is inevitable. The human persons are not able to 
respond to God perfectly. They are not able to detach themselves completely from their 
sinfulness, a necessary condition for a personal relationship with God. This attachment of 
the human person to sin can manifest itself in various ways: it can be the attachment to 
error or to the disorders of will. Here we have the explanation of doctrinal errors and 
moral deviations. Our understanding of faith will tend to illustrate the personal 
relationship which implies a total dedication of the human person to God. We shall see it 
as a process by which he or she links his life with the life of God through Christ, for it is 
through Christ God communicates to us personally. 

2. FAITH IN THE CONTEXT OF INDIA: 

We always believe and profess our faith within a particular context. Hence it is 
necessary to clarify our understanding of faith in the context of various trends, 
movements and phenomena in India; these may be of a religious, social or cultural nature. 
Taking cognizance of these, helps us to sharpen our own notion of faith and to realize 
what it means to be a Christian believer in India today. 

A. Religious Fundamentalism: 

The trend which goes by the term 'fundamentalism' derives its name from the 
desire to adhere to and safeguard the 'fundamentals' of one's faith, as understood by its 
proponents. Religious fundamentalism generally results from a deep insecurity and the 
desire for a clear cut identity. It is not only a theological but also a psychological 
problem. Fundamentalism can be exploited for political purposes, as has been the case 
with the Hindutva movement in India. One assumes that there is only one way to 
understand and express the truth. In this context it is well to recall the opening speech of 
Pope John XXIII at Vatican II: "The substance of the ancient doctrine of the deposit of 
faith is one thing, and the way in which it is presented is another. " 

B. Religious Syncretism 

The term "syncretism" is frequently used in the history of religions. It refers to the 
coexistence or juxtaposition of incompatible beliefs and practices. It would occur in 
theology through "the use of individual ideas drawn from different philosophies, without 
concern for their internal coherence, their place within a system or the historical context" 
(FR 86). One may or may not be aware of such incompatibility. It may occur between or 
within religions. Syncretism has sometimes been described as an eclectic mixture of 
doctrines: even as a 'mishmash of religions'. The possibilities of syncretism increase with 



64 



greater inter-mingling of peoples, cultures and religions It is sometimes consciously 
fostered for political or social reasons. 

Nevertheless the danger of syncretism was real and remains real for Christians in 
India. They find themselves a minority within a vast population which fervently practices 
rites and holds religious ideas which may be incompatible with Christian faith and 
practice. In such a context syncretism can arise out of "a false desire for leveling all 
religious differences. We might too easily say that all religious attitudes, beliefs, practices 
are the same and might even be unwilling to give witness to the core of our faith in order 
not to appear distinct from the other" (Guidelines, n. 54). The process of inculturation 
should not be confused with syncretism, notwithstanding outward appearances. 

C. Faith divorced from life: faith and secularism 

The human person is effortlessly drawn to the visible, which is easily accessible 
and calculable. On the other hand, "faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the 
conviction of things not seen" (Heb. 11.1). It was in virtue of this faith that Abraham 
"went out, not knowing where he was to go" (Heb. 11.8). The challenge to faith may also 
come from some fellow Christians who are dominated by a secular spirit: they interpret 
religious beliefs in a thoroughly this-worldly manner so as to empty them of all faith 
content. Related to this is the temptation to reduce spirituality to psychological well- 
being. Secularism may be described as an attitude, a world-view or ideology which seeks 
to withdraw the worldly realm from the influence of religion. The very idea of God is 
painted as something alienating and useless, alleging that it deprives humans of their 
autonomy and responsibility and leads them to neglect efforts to improve this world. 
Thereby religion itself is dubbed insignificant or meaningless. 

Non-believers or humanists sometimes absolutise certain human values like 
honesty, solidarity, compassion, etc. which are also Gospel values. Contact with non- 
believers can help us grow in commitment to these values. It can also lead us to examine 
what in the God we believe in, thereby helping us to purify our religious concepts, 
images and attitudes. Perhaps it is a false image of God which the non-believer rejects. 
Some are still dominated by such caricatures of God as: "policeman" concerned only with 
infringements of the law; "accountant" taking account of our actions with unsettling 
accuracy; "stop-gap" in the world processes when everything else fails; "torturer" sending 
people to hell; exacting "task-master". Furthermore, belief often appears in an outmoded 
garb. This makes belief difficult in an age when the idea of "tradition" has been replaced 
by that of "progress". Hence referring to the presence of non-believers among us, Vatican 
II reminds us, that "believers themselves frequently bear some responsibility for this 
situation. ... To the extent that they neglect their own training in the faith, or teach 
erroneous doctrine, or are deficient in their religious, moral, or social life, they must be 
said to conceal rather than reveal the authentic face of God and religion" (GS 19). 

Believers themselves sometimes feel that the forms and formulae of faith no 
longer fit their problems and experiences. This leads us to a reflection on the worrying 
dichotomy between faith and human experience. It so happens for some people that their 
faith and daily life, inclusive of their secular profession, seem to run on parallel lines with 
no connection between them. The mutual exclusion of faith and daily life can lead to faith 
with its religious expressions being looked upon as irrelevant to life, or at most as an 
"opium" (K. Marx) or "a crude sort of spiritual vodka" (Lenin). J. Coventry shows how 



65 



much our adherence to Christ's revelation needs to permeate our whole life: "we are in 
part atheists, when we go about our ordinary work and pass judgment on men and events, 
as if we had forgotten God for the moment; or we are Pelagians at heart, when we 
attribute our spiritual insight and achievement to our own efforts and initiative." 

The proper vocation of the laity is to "seek the kingdom of God by engaging in 
temporal affairs and by ordering them according to the plan of God" (LG 31). Their chief 
apostolate is to integrate their secular involvement into their existence as Christians, to 
humanize the world injustice, truth and freedom. In this way they will glorify the Father 
(see Jn 17:4). It is important to help them see the religious and spiritual depths of their 
involvement in earthly affairs. Vatican II asked that we overcome the "false opposition 
between professional and social activities on the one hand, and religious life on the other" 
(GS 43). 

Christians are "citizens of two cities". Accordingly the Council quite plainly 
pointed out the errors at two extremes: "They are mistaken who, knowing that we have 
here no abiding city but seek one which is to come [cf Heb. 13.14], think that they may 
therefore shirk their earthly responsibilities... Nor, on the contrary, are they any less wide 
of the mark who think that religion consists in acts of worship alone... and who imagine 
they can plunge themselves into earthly affairs in such, a way as to imply that these are 
altogether divorced from the religious life" (ibid.). The Council also 'indicated how our 
daily life can be sanctified by the manner in which it is lived: "For all their works, 
prayers, and apostolic endeavors, their ordinary married and family life, their daily 
labour, their mental and physical relaxation, if carried out in the Spirit, and even the 
hardships of life, if patiently borne - all these become spiritual sacrifices acceptable to 
God through Jesus Christ [1 Pt 2:5]" (LG 34). 

D. Faith and popular religiosity: 

Popular religiosity or piety refers to "particular expressions of the search for God 
and for faith", which one finds among the people. The Conference of Latin American 
Bishops (Puebla, 1979) cautioned against some dangers which threaten the people's piety: 
"a divorce between faith and life. .. a distorted idea of God; a utilitarian view of certain 
forms of piety; an inclination, in some places, toward religious syncretism (Nos. 453, 
914). Sometimes there maybe excessive credulity in regard to visions and prophecies. We 
must of course understand the fear or anxiety which impels a person to such frantic 
behaviour. Nevertheless such actions betray a weak faith, which often met with prophetic 
criticism in the Old Testament (Cfr Hos 2:5,8, 13; 4: 12-13; Jer 2:20). 

E. Faith and Culture 

India is a land of many cultures and the challenge facing the Indian Church and 
the individual Christian is to live and express the faith in Christ through the local culture. 
The profession of the Christian faith must not be alienated from one's cultural life. The 
problem is compounded by the fact that the Christian faith is always mediated in an 
already inculturated form. Nevertheless from the earliest times the Church sought to 
express her faith in a diversity of cultural contexts: an effort which gave rise to a variety 
of rites within the unity of one Catholic Church (FR 70-71). This indeed highlights what 



66 



is commonly known in theological circles as 'inculturation'. Yet, "no one culture can ever 
become the criterion of judgment, much less the ultimate criterion of truth with regard to 
God's revelation" (FR 71). The dynamic relationship between faith and culture challenges 
the Christians to clarify their identity as both a Christian and a citizen. 

F. Faith in the context of inter- religious dialogue 

India enjoys a unique place in Asia as the cradle or home of all the major religions 
in the world: Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism, Sikhism, Christianity and tribal religions. It 
is here that Zoroastrianism has been kept alive. Hinduism, which is the dominant religion 
and culture, has given rise to very rich and highly variegated forms of religiosity and 
piety. The Christian cannot remain insulated or aloof from this religious pluralism. 
Vatican II drew attention to the situation in our times, "when every day people are being 
drawn closer together and the ties between various peoples are being multiplied"; inter- 
religious dialogue is one of the means by which the Church pursues "her task of fostering 
unity and love among people, and even among nations" (NA 1). 

G. Faith in the context of superstition, casteism, discrimination, liberation: 

a) Superstition arises from a mutual influence of a magical and religious outlook. 
Thus magic is interpreted religiously. Or religious matters are interpreted magically, e.g. 
prayer becomes a magic spell, religious symbols are ascribed a magical causality like 
fetishes. Customs in the Church are always in danger of degenerating into magic and 
superstition. (CCC: 21 1 1). Superstition is a flight from the insecurity of life and from the 
decisions it demands of us. It is an abdication of personal freedom and responsibility; it 
spares people both intellectual effort and commitment. 

b) Casteism, discrimination, liberation: At the heart of Christian faith is God 
revealing himself in Christ as Father. This necessarily implies on our part an attitude of 
brother/sister towards our neighbour, expressed in love and justice. In the first place this 
rules out discrimination against others on grounds of caste, race, religion or condition of 
life: "show no partiality as you hold the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ. .. But if you show 
partiality, you commit sin" (James 2:1, 9; see also Gal 5:6). Vatican II indicates the same: 
"We cannot in truthfulness call upon that God who is the Father of all if we refuse to act 
in a brotherly way toward certain people, created though they be to God's image. 

A person's relationship with God the Father and his relationship with his brother 
men are so linked together that Scripture says: 'He who does not love does not know God' 
(1 Jn 4:8)" (NA 5). The CBCI has stated categorically that caste discrimination is "a 
denial of Christianity"; and delay in facing the issue of caste is "a betrayal of the 
Christian vocation". 



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CHAPTER VIII 
UNDERSTANDING OF FAITH 



1. TERMINOLOGY 



In the profane use it stands for accepting something as true without evidence, 
relying on a testimony as authority. It also means a system of religious truths or a belief 
system, (e.g. Hindu Faith). 

The Old Testament uses two words to indicate faith: He-emin and Batah. The 
basic meaning of the term He-emin is firmness in accepting a truth with all its 
consequences (1 Sam 20:19; Prov 13:17; 1 Sam 26:23). The acceptance of the word can 
take various forms: if it is a command the acceptance will consist in obeying (Dt.9: 4); if 
it is a promise, the acceptance will consist in trusting (Ps 115: 12). The term Batah means 
to be in a state of security (Ps 25). 

The New Testament uses the words Pistis 'and 'Pisteuein to indicate faith. In 
classical Greek these terms have no religious meaning. They are used to mean simple 
human trust. In the Gospels these terms signify the trust one ought to have in Jesus and to 
accept his word as true (Mk 16:15-16), to recognize him as the one who reveals the truth 
and to submit oneself to him (Mk 1:15; Ml 3: 2; 4: 17), to be certain and not to doubt, to 
be assured of the goodness and faithfulness of God (Mk. 11:24; Ml 21:22). Paul speaks 
of the act of faith as an act of obedience (Rom. 16: 26) and not merely as enrichment of a 
truth about God. 

2. BIBLICAL UNDERSTANDING OF FAITH 

From the study of the terms that indicate faith both in profane usage and in the 
biblical texts, it is clear that faith has a personal character. It is not a mere intellectual 
knowledge about God, but it is an act of relationship between God and the human person, 
leading towards the building up of a community. We shall continue the study of the 
understanding of faith in both the Old and New Testaments in order to see how it has 
been expressed in the unfolding of the history of salvation. 

A. Faith in the Old Testament 

a) The faith of Abraham. The community of the Old Testament has its origin in 
Abraham. His unconditional acceptance of the Word of God in faith makes him become 
the ancestor, the father of all believers (Rom 4:13-17). How was this faith operative in his 
life? 

i) In the life of Abraham we find that God intervenes and this intervention has a 
decisive effect on his future. He was asked to leave his country. God replaces the old way 
of existing of Abraham with a new existence. This is presented as something that is 
effected by the word of God (Cfr. Gen 12:1 and Gen 12:4). Abraham responds to the 
initiative of God. Here is a faith of obedience. 



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ii) This faith imphes for Abraham a total change in his life. His whole existence is 
transformed into a life of faith. For Abraham to believe has meant not only one act of 
obedience but all the consequence of it for the whole of his life. It is a total commitment. 

iii) This faith implies also trust because it is connected with the promise of 
salvation on the part of God. The future is also committed to God (Gen 12: 2; 22:15-18). 
Here we have faith that manifests itself in trust. 

iv) This faith of Abraham is a faith that is not free from crisis and tension. The 
natural element, the fact that the one who through faith commits oneself to God is a 
human person who lives in this contingent world is the cause of this crisis and tension. It 
is therefore obscure and subject to probation. 

b) Faith in the events of the Exodus. The exodus marks the beginning of the 
Israelites as the people of God. In the realization of this event faith plays an important 
role. They have to believe in the words of God communicated to them through Moses and 
entirely rely on His power to liberate them from Egypt. We shall see how this faith 
operates: 

i) To believe means to recognize the mission of Moses as God given through the 
signs that are performed (Ex 4: 30). 

ii) To believe means to have the fear of God (Ex.14: 30). The people see the 
manifestation of the power of God in the crossing of the Red Sea. They realize their 
powerlessness. They realize that they are in the presence of God who is immensely 
powerful. They realize that they are in the presence of a God who is holy. In fear, they 
submit themselves to God in reverence and fear. 

iii) To believe means to trust. They become aware of the fact that this powerful 
God is their redeemer. In their insufficiency they place their complete trust in him. They 
believe in him and entrust themselves to Him also for the future (Ex 14: 31). This faith 
was translated into a faithful observance of the laws of Yahweh and was expressed in a 
permanent and historical relationship between Israel, and Yahweh. In fact their faith in 
the God of the exodus is always the point of reference whenever their religious identity is 
in crisis 

c) Faith in the life of people. The whole life of the faithful is permeated by their 
faith in Yahweh. When this faith is weakened they are in trouble. In moments of 
difficulties they need to renew their faith in Yahweh and not in other sources of strength. 
At the invasion of the enemies King Ahaz seeks a political solution and asks for help 
from the King of the Assyrians (2 Kgs 16: 1-18). But Isaiah says that the King should not 
have any fear because the people and King will be saved if they trust in Yahweh. The 
people had their origin in faith; so also their existence will be in faith, without any human 
calculations and political means, but entirely trusting in Yahweh. (See also Is 40: 31.) 

Faith in the Old Testament comprises the total attitude of the human being 
towards Yahweh. The specific aspects included and unified in this general attitude are the 
following: 



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i) Knowledge and acknowledgment of Yahweh, of his saving and dominating 
power in Israel's history. 

ii) Trust in his promises, along with reverential fear, 
iii) Obedience towards Yahweh's commandments. 

A. Faith in the New Testament 

In the NT the object of faith is Christ event, which is the Exodus by which 
the new people of God come into existence. But, by faith we do not merely affirm an 
event of the past; this event is constantly present to us in the person of the risen Lord; 
hence our faith is an act of acceptance of Jesus Christ, dead and risen and alive with us 
today. It is an act of personal relationship with Christ who leads us to the Father. We 
shall see how it is expressed by the various witnesses of the New Testament 

a) Faith in the Synoptics 

i) In the Evangelists we find a gradual evolution in the doctrine of faith, as present 
in the preaching of Jesus. In the beginning of his mission, he does not demand faith in his 
person, but faith in God, whose kingdom has come. But in the course of his preaching he 
shows that the kingdom of God is closely connected with his person. Thus the problem of 
faith becomes a matter of one's relationship with Christ's person. 

ii) The main characteristics of faith, according to Synoptics are 

1) Faith is concerned with a fundamental personal decision: I t is concerned with a 
radical choice, leading to a radical conversion of the human person (Mk 1:15) by which 
the human person enters into an irrevocable and indispensable relationship with Christ's 
person (Mt 10; 32). It is connected with one's salvation (Mk 16:16). 

2) Faith is essentially saving faith. I t is connected with one's salvation (Mk 16: 
16). The miracles of Jesus which are the manifestations of his saving presence in our 
midst always are performed in the context of faith (Mk 9: 22-24). This faith is not simply 
faith in God, but in Jesus. Through faith the human person participates in the saving 
power of God manifested in Christ (Mk 2: 5.) 

3) The Dynamic aspects of Faith according to the Synoptics are the following: 
They speak of faith as hearing the word of Jesus (Mk 4: 9; 7:16). This hearing should 
lead people to a more profound understanding of the economy of salvation (Mt 7: 14; 
8:17, 21). They speak of faith as the following of Christ. This does not consist only in 
being docile to the words of Jesus, but also includes the promptness to leave everything 
and follow Christ (Mt 10: 28; Lk 14: 27) On the other hand the following of Jesus cannot 
be separated from listening to his words. In fact the Synoptics explain the connection 
between faith and following of Christ by showing that eternal life consists in becoming 
his disciples (Mk 10: 17, 21). This faith is also a gift of God; but this does not free us 
from our responsibility (Mt 11: 27; 16: 17; Lk 22: 33). 

From all these it follows that for the Synoptics faith is a fundamental reality of 
Christian life. Jesus does not merely propose a doctrine which should be learned as a 
theory. He wants to reach the human person. To believe, therefore is to become the 
disciple of Christ with all its consequences. Faith is not a static reality; it implies living a 



70 



life that is wanted by Jesus. The union of the individuals with God and their efficacy in 
ministry will depend on the degree of their attachment and love through faith, for Christ 
(Mk 9: 22-24). 

b) Faith in St. Paul 

We can discover the following structure in the Pauline faith. 

i) Faith is closely connected with the doctrine of justification. (Rom 1:16; Rom 
5:13,28.) Faith is the acceptance of the power of God that is capable of justifying the 
human person. So it is opposed to all types of self-reliance. Faith is not something that 
the human person offers to God, but it is an act of submission to the work of justification 
performed by God in Christ. 

a) It is an act of obedience: (Rom 1: 8; 1: 5.). It implies, to a certain extent the 
renouncing of the autonomy of human intelligence. This places the human person in need 
of trusting in God. (Gal 3: 6; Rom 9: 33). This trust is in a God who has done wonderful 
things in the history of the people and will continue to do it in the course of the centuries. 
This is a Christological trust in as much as the mirabilia Dei, the historical intervention of 
God, is manifested in the person Christ (2 Cor 3; 4). Since it is an act of obedience to 
God it has its moments of obscurity. Faith means to hope against hope (Rom4: 18-25). It 
is also an act of courage, but the basis for this courage is in God. The human persons 
entrust themselves to God. It is not a leap in the dark, but it is a leap into God whose 
plans, although are not known to us, are the outcome of His eternal love (Eph 1: 4-7). This 
kind of faith would call for a total dedication of the human person to God. 

Hi) This faith is closely connected with hope, because the object of our faith is the 
reality still to be revealed and still to be achieved (Rom 1:17). Our faith is a participation 
in the death of Christ. If so, it will be consummated only in our complete participation in 
the glorification of Christ (Rom 6: 8) 

iv) Faith has also an intellectual aspect. We accept Kerygma first by our 
intelligence (Rom 10: 9). Therefore faith has a determinate doctrinal content. It is not a 
vague acceptance of an indeterminate reality. 

v) Faith is closely connected with Christian life. Faith determines the whole life. 
Christ lives in the hearts of the faithful through faith (Eph 3: 17). Everything that is not of 
faith is sin (Rom 14: 23). The life of the Christian in order to be authentic must be a life 
of faith (Gal 2: 20). 

c. Faith in St. John. John writes his gospel in order that we may believe (Jn 20: 
31). John the Baptist is sent as a witness for Jesus in order that all may believe through 
him (Jn 1: 7). John speaks of coming to Jesus. This is the same as believing Jn 5: 40; 6: 
37, 41f). To follow Jesus is to believe in him (Jn 8:12) John's idea of faith is dynamic. He 
uses the noun pistis only in his letter (1 Jn 5: 4). At all other times he has the verb 
pisteuein. It implies the involvement of the whole person. The structure of faith in St. 
John can be presented as follows: 

i) To believe is to hear the word: He speaks not merely of a material hearing (Jn 
8:43-47; 18:37). In this act of hearing the true disciple is able to distinguish the false 



71 



voice from the true. There is reciprocity between the acts of the one who speaks and the 
one who listens. 

a) To believe is to recognize (Jn 11:42; 17:8). It is here that faith reaches its 
perfection. It comes here very clear to the knowledge that exists between the Father and 
the Son. The perfection of faith is precisely in its nearness to this knowledge. 

Hi) Faith in John is very personal (Jn 12:11; 2:11) in as much as it refers to God 
the Father and to Jesus, His son, in his personal intervention in the history of humanity. 
In this personal aspect of faith we find that there are the following elements: security, 
trust in as much as to believe in Jesus is to give oneself to him, faith as a free gift and free 
choice of God on the part of the human person. 

iv) Faith lays the foundation for the new eschatological existence for man. Those 
who believe in Christ must renounce their personal decisions, to their glory; they must 
renounce their sense of security. They are in this world; but they should live as if they 
were out of this world. Faith is for John the victory over the world (Jn 15:19). The one 
who believes has already eternal life (Jn 6: 40). The disciples, who believe in Christ and 
follow him, have already the joy and peace in spite of their sadness and worries. 

v) Those who believe must keep the commandments. Those who have faith have a 
new existence. The commandments should not be taken as legal impositions, but as 
necessary consequences of an internal urge in .the one who has entered this new state (1 
Jn3: 22; 1 Jnl: 6). 

d) Faith in the letter to the Hebrews 

i) Heb 10:19-25: The Christians should have absolute trust in Jesus, the high 
Priest because in his blood we all have access to the Holy of Holies. This is effected in 
two ways: through his human nature and through his powerful intercession. Our faith is 
therefore in our acceptance of Jesus at our Baptism, for it is at Baptism that the saving 
power of Christ's humanity as well as his intercessory power with the Father is revealed 
to us. 

ii) Heb 10:26-31: One who does not have faith and is in danger of being in 
apostasy, such a person is punished. 

iii) Heb 10:32-39: Believers are exhorted to persevere motivated by the 
Christians who have suffered for their faith and lived by the promise of the reward that 
was expected. 

iv) Heb 11:1. Faith is the objective foundation (implying objective certainty) of 
the celestial realities. This verse places greater stress on the eschatological aspect of our 
faith. 

v) Heb 11: 2-11: Examples of faith in the OT are brought forward. Of all these the 
example of Abraham is of greater importance. 

vi) Heb 11:12-16: The faith of the Patriarchs is a true prefiguration of the Christian 
faith. They see the fulfillment of the promise from afar, but die without actually arriving 
at it. If they did not really arrive it is because they were looking forward to a better land 
of promise, of which the Promised Land was a figure. In verse 39, we see the fulfillment 
of these longing of the patriarchs in the Christian economy. Christ becomes the true 
converging point of faith both in the Old and New Testament. 



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vii) Hebl2: 1-3: Christians therefore should fix their eyes on Christ because their 
faith in Christ is the full realization of that economy of faith which was inaugurated in the 
O.T. 

Both in the OT and in the NT faith expresses in the first place as total personal 
relationship of the human person to God in Christ. Hence to believe in the first place is 
not believe something, but to believe in somebody and entrust oneself to somebody. But 
this would call for accepting the words of Jesus. Here we have the dogmatic character. 
The dogmatic aspect of faith should be considered as a means to reach the person. 

3. FAITH IN THE PATRISTIC TRADITION OF THE CHURCH 

A. The Early Christian Fathers 

In continuation of the biblical doctrine, faith in Jesus is the source and centre of 
all Christian life. The emphasis goes (against the Gnostics) to the humanity of Jesus 
Christ: in the true Incarnation and passion of the Saviour in whom we have new life: 
Jesus Christ the beginning and end of life. "For faith is the beginning and the end is love 
and God is the two of them brought into unity" (Ignatius of Antioch, Letter to the 
Ephesians, 14). "I give glory to Jesus Christ, the God who has imbued you with such 
wisdom. I am well aware that you have been made perfect in unwavering faith, like men 
nailed, in body and spirit, to the cross of Our Lord Jesus Christ, and confirmed in love by 
the blood of Christ". (Ignatius: Letter to the Smymaeans, 1). 

In the mind of the Fathers faith is still primarily the act of personal commitment, 
the 'fides qua creditur '. In human salvation Christ constitutes the objective order of God's 
plan, whereas faith is human being's personal move. Ignatius uses the simile of the 
edifice: "Like the stones of a temple, cut for a building of God the Father, you have been 
lifted up to the top by the crane of Jesus Christ, which is the cross, and the rope of the 
Holy Spirit. For your faith has drawn you up, and charity has been the road leading to 
God". (Ignatius Letter to the Ephesians 9ff). 

Still in the struggle against the heresies, the authentic content of revelation is of 
great significance, and hence the intellectual character of faith becomes more prominent. 
Already Polycarp writes: "Everyone who does not confess that Jesus Christ has come in 
the flesh is an antichrist; and whoever does not confess the witness of the Cross is of the 
devil; and whoever perverts the sayings of the Lord, to his own evil desires and says there 
is neither resurrection nor judgement, that one is the first-born of Satan" (Polycarp, Letter 
to the Philippians 7, 1). Irenaeus defends the content of faith as it is handed down by 
tradition against the heresies: "Spread out through the universe, to the end of the earth, 
the Church has received from the Apostles and their disciples that faith which is in one 
God, the almighty Father etc... the Church preserves this preaching as she has received it, 
and this faith as we have explained it... As there is only one and the same faith, he who 
knows much about it does not amplify it nor does he who know little diminish it" (Adv. 
Haer. 1,10). 



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B. Syriac Patristic Notion of Faith 

Syriac Christian notion of faith is based on the historical and meta-historical 
understanding of the biblical reality of salvation. The old Israel believed in Yahweh who 
intervened in their history for their liberation, yet remained invisible. All interventions of 
God in history were symbolic, signifying and 'orienting to the signified reality of a new 
covenant and a promised land with a new mode of existence. That new covenant and new 
mode of existence are made manifest in Christ. Those who believed in him were saved. 
Basically Christian faith is faith in Christ. 

a) Faith as Existential Building up on Christ, the Corner Stone 

Faith, in the Syriac Christian understanding, is a relational process. It is one's own 
building up on the 'comer stone', Christ (cf Lk 20: 17; 1 Pet 2:6-9; Aphrahat, Dem I, 2). 
In Christ Jesus, divinity that gives and humanity that receives meet in a salvific mystery. 
Believing is a relational process. Christian faith is a relational building up because faith is 
composed of a divine gift received within a human response that builds upon the divine 
gift, the 'image and likeness Of God'. Hence, according to St. Ephrem faith is a relational 
reality beyond all conceptual perceptions. Trinitarian relationship is the pattern of faith 
relationship. Through faith, in the believing one, the paternity of the Father is imprinted, 
the essence of the Son is mingled and the sanctification of the Spirit is assured (On Faith 
13:2). 

This Trinitarian factor in faith is not a mere guarantee alone but a real 
achievement and perfection. This reality is assured in the formula of Baptism (Mt 28: 
19); moreover, the constitution of human beings in body, soul and spirit also conforms to 
this truth (On Faith 13: 3-5). Faith grows in a person as a bird grows from the womb of 
the mother bird to egg in the nest and to the flying out bird singing its proper melody (On 
Faith 18:3). Faith is like a building built with many works with many things in many 
colours. "The Foundation of our whole faith is our Lord Jesus Christ, who is the true 
stone. And upon this very stone, the faith is laid. And upon the faith, the whole building 
rises until it is perfected" (Dem on Faith I, 2). The one who believes travels on the road 
of faith by building upon the steps of love, hope, justification and perfection. This 
building up is for becoming a 'house' and a 'temple' for the dwelling of Christ as Jeremiah 
saw (Jer 7:4, 5; Dem I, 3). The mutual indwelling of Christ and the believer develops 
through faith (cf Lev 26:12; 2 Cor 6:16; 1 Cor 3:16; 6:19; Jn 14:20). 

It is the faith in Christ and the works accordingly that make each one a 'ploughed 
land' where the seeds would bear thirty, sixty and hundred fold (cf Mt 13:8). The proper 
relational and covenantal attitude of faith with commitment removes all forms of scrutiny 
and disputation from the heart (On Faith 53:6, 7). "The man who becomes a house and a 
dwelling place for Christ should see to what is fitting for the service of Christ who dwells 
in him and with what things he will please him"(Dem 1,4). What is pleasing to Christ are 
pure fasting, pure prayer, love, almsgiving, humility, virginity, holiness, wisdom, 
hospitality, simplicity, perseverance, moderation and purity which are effects of faith. 
"All these things are asked for by faith which is placed on therock of the true stone. 



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which is Christ. These deeds are required by Christ, the king who dwells in people who 
through these works are built up" (Dem 1,4). . 

b) Faith: Proclamation and Acts of Faith 

Regarding works of faith, Ephrem finds human body as a boat and boatman who 
travels and collects merchandise for selling with bodily senses and faculties as treasures 
of faith (On Faith 80:8). As the arc of Noah was for his salvation, faith is the arc for 
human salvation. Like Noah who believed and became saved on his ship, all human 
beings can travel with faith, the ship, on one's journey to salvation (On Faith 49:6). A 
human being as a mariner travels on the boat of faith to the shores of salvation. As a ship 
travels against the waves, so the one with faith (ship) travels against all waves of odd 
experiences and reaches salvation (On Faith 43:6). Faith is a road; charity and hope are 
places of refuge (On the Church 34:4); love and prayer are needed to ascend to God (On 
Faith 4:\\). 

c) Faith, the Soul of our Soul (Second Soul) 

As body needs soul and bread for life, soul needs faith, and faith in order to live 
needs grace (On Faith 80:9). Body needs soul, soul needs faith and faith lives by God 
(On Faith 80:2-3;). Without faith soul will be like a 'dead body' and that would be the 
invisible death. Faith is a 'soul' to the human soul, a 'second soul' (On Faith 80:1-5). As 
body needs bread, faith needs moral behaviour and true faith grows through proclamation 
and bears fruit in acts of faith. Faith is the light to see the hidden/mysterious matters 
(kasyata) by the power of the 'eye of faith' (On the Church, 24:3). Many, in the biblical 
history, have seen with the 'eye of faith', like Abraham and the prophets, the Magi, the 
Samaritan woman, the Canaanite woman, the widow of Naim and others who were 
illumined with the 'eye of faith'. Faith is often seen as 'light' and disbelief as 'darkness'. It 
is in this respect 

Eve and Mary are seen as the 'two eyes of the world'. Eve, by yielding herself to 
the tempter, disbelieved her Lord and became the source of darkness and death in the 
world. Eve is called the 'darkened eye of the world'. Mary, on the other hand, by 
believing the message of the angel, became the source of life and 'Light', Christ, in the 
world. Hence Mary is the 'Illumined eye of the world' (On the Church, 37:3-5). Thus, Eve 
is the 'source of death' and Mary is the 'source of life' in the world (On the Church, 35: \). 
It is the faith that redeems and perfects all: The antithetical parallelism between Eve and 
Mary, in this respect, explains the central role of faith in the history of salvation in the 
Old and New dispensations. 



B. Augustine 

a) For Augustine to believe is a personal experience 

i) In the first place Augustine had a very vivid experience of the authority. The 
decisive element for faith is authority, which demands faith. In the act of faith of a 



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Christian this authority is concretely present in God who demands faith on His own 
authority, in Christ, in the Church and in the Holy Scripture. 



a) Augustine had a personal crisis of faith. This led him to seek for solution of the 
problem relating faith to reason. He sought it in Manichaeism and then fell into 
scepticism: "And you know, Honoratus, that for no other reason did we fall in with such 
men than that they kept saying that by pure and simple reason, apart from all formidable 
authority, they would lead their willing listeners on to God and free them from all error. 
For, what else forced me for almost nine years, during which time I rejected the religion 
which my parents had implanted in me as a child, and to follow these men and diligently 
to listen to them, save that they said we were terrified by superstition, and that faith was 
demanded of us before reason, while they on the other hand, were forcing faith on no one 
without first hunting for and disentangling the truth" (De Utilitate Credendi ad 
Honoratum 1:2). 

in) Augustine 's conversion to faith gave him a very vivid experience of the power 
of Grace. 

b) The constituent elements of the art of believing in Augustine 

i) Believing, for Augustine, is determined by the authority. Authority demands 
faith and prepares us for reason. Reason leads us to the understanding and knowledge: 
"Whatever we understand accordingly, we owe to reason; what we believe to authority" 
(De ut Cred 11: 25). To believe, therefore, implies submission of the human, person to 
authority. Believing is distinct from understanding. 

ii) There is a close connection between believing and understanding. It is like 
passing from an internal reality to an external reality. Faith is more internal; it becomes 
more and more external as we receive evidence, until in heaven this faith will be 
transformed into vision. 

in) Augustine distinguishes 'fides quae creditur' from fides qua creditur '. On the 
basis of this distinction the intellectual character of faith can be developed. He offers the 
classical formula. Faith is 'cum assensione cogitare', to think with assent (De 
Praedestinatione Sanctorum 2, 5) which implies the mutual relation of commitment and 
understanding which becomes the basic problem of the analysis of the act of faith: 
"Nobody believes something unless he has first recognized that he should believe it" 
(op.cit). Augustine proposes the problem in an antithesis of the rationalistic and fideistic 
approach: 

"You say I should understand in order to believe; I say, believe that you may 
understand. Here is our controversy: let us approach the judge, the prophet may judge, 
rather God through the prophet, and let both of us be silent. What we have to say is 
stated: I should understand to believe, and believe, I say, to understand. The prophet may 
answer: unless you believe, you will not understand". Faith joins the human person with 
God's supreme knowledge: "It is not a small part of knowledge to be united to Him who 



76 



knows: He has the eyes of knowledge, you should have the eyes of believing, what God 
sees you must believe". 

iv) Augustine sees the image of the Trinity in the believer. In faith there is the 
intentionality, namely, the tending of the mind to the object, which in this case is God; 
then there is the knowledge of this God and this knowledge is followed by love. So faith 
is dynamic and this dynamism is an image of the dynamism that exists in the bosom of 
the Trinity and therefore by faith we receive the image of God, and we, as it were, enter 
into relationship with the Holy Trinity. 

v) Faith is different from vision. But there is no opposition between faith and 
vision because our faith is tending to become vision. The vision is not therefore the 
destruction of faith, but a continuation of the faith. 



4. SCHOLASTIC PERIOD 

St. Thomas does not develop a critical examination of the act of faith. He 
describes faith as a theological virtue. It is the inchoatio vitae, the beginning of life. 
Hence faith is salvific. The object of faith is God, for the beatific vision will consist in 
seeing God face to face. As a consequence of this St. Thomas insists very much on the 
supernatural aspect of faith. God's assistance in faith consists both in the exterior 
revelation and its support by miracles; but also in the inner illumination which affects 
both intellect and will, and leads to a cognitio per connaturalitatem (connatural 
knowledge) by which human beings share in the divine life. 

5. FAITH IN THE TEACHING OF THE CHURCH 
A. The Council of Trent 

a) The historical background: Luther and the Reformers 

i) Luther 

The starting point for the understanding of Luther is his doctrine of justification. 
Against any form of human self-reliance and confidence in one's own works, Luther 
maintains the human person's essential sinfulness, and total incapability of moving 
towards justification. Justice is exclusively God's work and gift; it is offered to human 
beings through Jesus Christ, and can be received only in absolute faith that God has 
forgiven them. 

He distinguishes two forms of faith: "Here (in the context of forgiveness) faith 
means not merely historical knowledge, as it is found also in godless people, or even in 
the devil; it rather means faith which believes not only the history, but the effect of 
history, viz. the article of the forgiveness of sins: that through Christ we have grace, 
justice and forgiveness of sins. He who knows that through Christ, God is propitious to 



77 



him; he truly knows God, knows that God takes care of him, calls on God and is not 
without God as the Gentiles". (Confessio Augustana XX). In its very essence faith is 
based on the word of God, and on nothing else. Hence, as the word of God addresses the 
whole human person, intellect and will, so the response also consists in a total human 
adherence to God's Word. 

a) Luther's Subjectivism 

Luther was right in placing faith totally into the context of justification. However 
his accents are laid too strongly on the individual and the entire Creed is interpreted in 
terms of God's gift to 'me' which gives a strongly subjective trend to his theology. About 
the Eucharist he says: "When I receive the sacrament of the body and blood of Christ, he 
clearly says: 'This is the new covenant'. Here I must believe with certainty that grace and 
forgiveness of sin, as promised in the NT, are mine. And this I must accept in faith" 
(Apol. Confess. Aug. XIII). The error of Luther consists in the 'fides jiducialis " which 
means that sins are forgiven to anyone who speaks of one's confidence and certainty that 
one's sins are forgiven and relies on this confidence alone for salvation.. For him this is 
the saving faith. 

b) Luther excludes charity from faith 

In his insistence on justification through faith only, without works, Luther 
excludes, also charity from justifying faith: "Charity must follow faith (he quotes Gal 5: 
6: fides quae per caritatem operator, faith working through love). But it would be wrong 
that through trust in this charity, or on account of this charity we receive forgiveness and 
reconciliation, just as we do not receive forgiveness of sins on account of other works 
which follow faith, but through faith only in the strict sense we receive forgiveness of 
sins because the promise cannot be received but through faith" (Conf Aug). Thus charity 
is counted among the other works of justice. 

He does admit the need of works, in accordance with James 1:18; because without 
the work, faith remains dead. But they are fruits of justice, not its root. If charity were 
really man's own, he would be right. But charity is the full response to God's saving love: 
If God's word is the revelation of God's love; the full response can lead to Justification. In 
fact, the way Luther describes living faith as adherence to God's word, it includes the 
attitude of charity, and Bouyer is right when he calls the exclusion of charity from 
justifying faith "the least defensible of Luther's negations" (in The Spirit and Forms of 
Protestantism, p. 144). 

a) Calvin. He takes up Luther's position, and adds mainly two elements: 

1) On the basis of his doctrine of absolute predestination he says that faith is 
given only to those who are predestined, and therefore cannot fail. 

2) Faith is a vivid inner experience. It reveals itself in 'conversion' and implies the 
renewal of the entire outlook on life. This idea has been unfolded throughout the history 
of Protestantism and is expressed in all revival movements. 



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b. The Conciliar Doctrine 

In the controversy with the Reformers faith is seen in the context of salvation. In 
spite of the polemic character of some statements (against 'fides fiducialis ') the Conciliar 
texts offer a harmonious picture of the meaning of faith in the Christian life. 

i) The central text is ch.8 of Decree on Justification CF 1935 about the place of 
faith in justification: "We are justified by faith because faith is the beginning of human 
salvation, the foundation and root of all justification, without which it is impossible to 
please God (Heb 11: 6). Given this central position, to which the Reformers agree, 
specific statements are added which mark the Catholic position against the Reformers. 

ii) The nature of faith is described so as to include explicitly the intellectual 
element: The process of Justification is described in ch 6 (CF 1930): "Awakened and 
assisted by divine grace, they conceive faith from hearing and are freely led to God, 
believing to be true what has been divinely revealed and promised, especially that the 
sinner is justified by God's grace, through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus". Note 
that faith is not presented as a merely intellectual assent, but as a movement towards God 
under God's grace. Still, the assent to the objective revelation is emphasized. 

iii) Further specification is added in ch.7. Charity must be connected with faith, as 
it is essential for justification. "Faith without hope and charity neither unites a person 
perfectly with Christ, nor makes one a living member of his body". Here justification 
through faith is essentially linked to the newness of life which is animated by charity. The 
fullness of man's response to revelation in Christ implies the bond of charity. 

iv) In this context the fides fiducialis i.e., the faith 'my sins are forgiven, is 
rejected (in ch.9 CF 1936 and the canon 9-12) Faith consists in the acknowledgement of 
Christ as Savior; but "if anyone says that, to attain the remission of sins, one must believe 
with certainty and without any hesitation based on one's weakness and lack of 
disposition, that one's sins are forgiven" or "if anyone says that a person is absolved from 
sins and is justified because one believes with certainty to be absolved and justified; or 
that no one is truly justified except one who believes oneself to be justified, and that 
absolution and justification are effected by this faith alone" such a person is outside the 
Catholic Church (can. 13 & 14. CF 1963 - 1964). Council also rejected the doctrine that 
holds faith as personal predestination, against Calvin. "If anyone says that one who has 
been reborn and justified is bound by faith to believe oneself to be certainly among the 
number of the predestined, anathema sit (can. 15 CF 1965) 

v) On the other hand, faith has a meaning for justification even if it is not alive 
with charity. Luther considered faith, the only link with Christ: As long as it is there, man 
is justified. The Tridentine Council insists that charity is essential for Justification; hence 
m ch, 15 (CF 1945) and canons 27-29 (CF 1977 - 1979) it teaches: "It must be asserted... 
that the grace of justification once received is lost not only by unbelief, which causes the 
loss of itself, but also by any other mortal sin, even though faith is not lost". (CF 1945). 
Thus the Church maintains that faith as the radical acceptance of Christ is the first bond 



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of God. It must be perfected by charity; but even in a state of sin, faith may remain, and 
from it the life in Christ may be renewed if only it is perfected by charity. 

B. I Vatican Council 

a) The Historical Background 

i) Kant and Schleiermacher 

The negative element of Kant's influence on modern philosophy and theology is 
his denial of any rational proof for the existence of God, and generally of religious 
realities. Theoretical reason is valid only within the sphere of phenomena. This doctrine 
was almost universally accepted in the non-catholic world. 

The positive contribution consists in the new foundation for the religious reality. 
The absolute character of the ethical demands, the categorical imperative, implies the 
existence of God, the immortality of the soul and man's freedom. After Kant, the 
religious world is disconnected from the world of empirical phenomena and rational 
argumentation and finds its justification in itself Sc hleiermacher bases religion on the 
inner experience of human being's total dependence. Faith, the basic act of the Christian 
life, has no justification from reason or history, but must be justified in itself 

ii) Rationalism - Semirationalism 

Whereas Rationalism maintains the autonomy of human reason, Semirationalism 
tries to find a formula in which faith keeps its place. The doctrine of Hermes is important 
for the understanding of the 19th centuary theology on faith. Hermes admits divine 
revelation in which God's economy of salvation is made known to human beings. 
According to him the motive of faith cannot consist in mere authority. This would 
destroy the firmness of the assent as, according to rationalistic principles, only evidence 
can make an assent firm. Hence Hermes admits the assent to revelation ultimately on the 
basis of human being's own reasoning. The motive of faith lies not in God but in man, 
and so he maintained the basic principle of rationalism. 

b) The Conciliar Doctrine 

Whereas in the Tridentine period, the context is the relationship between faith and 
justification, at the time of Vatican I, it is the problem of knowledge, the intellectual 
conception of faith with its epistemological implications. 

i) The nature of faith (Session III, ch. 3): 

The Council affirmed the possibility to prove God's existence by reason, against 
the Traditionalists (CF 113). Faith is described as intellectual assent, motivated by divine 
authority, against Rationalists (CF 118, 125-126) The act of faith is rationi consentaneum 
i.e. possible for human being as a rational being and justifiable before reason on account 



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of the 'exterior signs' i.e. the miracles. This is against Traditionalists and Rationalists (CF 
119; 127-128). Divine assistance is needed for faith (CF 120) 

Faith is necessary for salvation. To make acceptance of and perseverance in faith 
possible, God has established the Church as custodian and teacher of the faith (CF 122). 
The Church is also the guarantee of the integrity of faith, and she herself is the irrefutable 
testimony of her credibility and divine mission (CF 123). God gives the grace of 
perseverance in faith; He does not abandon those He has chosen. Hence no one can be 
justified in relinquishing the faith which he has received in the Church (CF. 124). 

a) The relationship between faith and reason (Session III ch. 4). 

There is a twofold order of knowledge: natural knowledge by reason, and 
supernatural by revelation of divine mysteries (CF 131). Reason has its task not only in 
the natural sphere, but also with regard to divine mysteries, to penetrate them by 
analogous reasoning, and see them in their mutual relationship. However, it never can 
fully apprehend the mysteries, even after their revelation. This is against Semirationalism 
(CF 132). There can be no contradiction between faith and reason (CF 133). The Church 
has the task to watch over the deposit of faith, and to proscribe errors of philosophy 
which are contrary to revealed truth (CF 134). 

There can be no conflict between faith and reason, but they support each other. 
Similarly the Church is not an enemy, rather she is the fervent guardian of cultures (CF 
135) Science, on the other hand, is meant to develop, without, however, stepping beyond 
its own limits and entering into the sphere of faith, thus creating confusion and disturbing 
the wlity of the Church which has to preserve the truth of revelation (CF 135). This 
doctrine has been deepened, and much developed in the II Vatican Council (See Gaudium 
et Spes n.36, and n.53ff). 

C. Oath against the Errors of Modernism (1910) 

Modernists start their interpretation of faith by affirming that the foundation of 
faith is the inner religious experience. It is neither philosophical certitude nor historical 
certitude. Faith, according to Modernists means the piercing through exterior experience 
of life to find the deepest reality of human existence. Modernism conceived faith too 
much as inner realization, not sufficiently as response to God's free self-revelation. Also 
the intellectual element was neglected. 

The Oath against the errors of Modernism rejects the Modernist understanding of 
faith in these words: "Faith is not a blind impulse of religion welling up from the depth of 
the subconscious under the impulse of the heart and the inclination of a morally 
conditioned will, but the genuine assent of the intellect to a truth which is received from 
outside 'by hearing'. In this assent, given on the authority of the all-truthful God, we hold 
to be true what 'has been said, attested to, and revealed by the personal God, our creator 
and Lord" (CF 143/5) 



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D. II Vatican Council 

The Tridentine Council dealt with faith only in the context of justification which 
did not allow a full development of the problems. Vatican I dealt explicitly with faith, but 
under an almost exclusively epistemological angle. There was urgent need to see faith 
again in its original meaning as response to Divine Revelation, and from this context to 
unfold its Christological and ecclesiological significance. In Vatican II, Revelation is 
proposed as salvation history and as God's action. Faith is the response of the human 
person. The text contains the following main elements (DV 5). 

a) Faith is obedience, submission of human person under God's Word and God's 
Word is God himself revealed to human beings. 

b) "By faith man freely commits his entire self to God". It is a total self 
commitment, comprising the whole person, intellect and will. 

c) It comprises intellectual assent : "willingly assenting to the Revelation given by 
him". The intellectual element is included, and constitutes the objective aspect, both of 
revelation and of faith. But it is in no way isolated. 

d) Faith must be preceded by the "interior helps of the Holy Spirit " This help, 
however, does not make the human person's act irrational, rather it consists in "opening 
the eyes of the mind", i.e. in giving the faculty to see the truth which for human nature 
would not be accessible. 

e) The same spirit assists the believer in unfolding the faith t hrough a deeper 
understanding, and making it bear fruit. 

E. Encyclical of John Paul II: Fides et Ratio 

The encyclical of John Paul II deals with the relationship of faith with reason in 
the multi-religious and pluricultural milieu of today. He deal with this problem also with 
a view to answer some questions that have arisen in the philosophical and scientific 
context in which there seems to be a dichotomy between faith and scientific knowledge, 
be it philosophical or technological. The whole encyclical deal with this subject under its 
various aspects in the light of Christian tradition and sound philosophical principles and 
shows that both faith and reason have their origin in God and therefore they cannot be 
opposed to one another. But there are certain criteria to be followed in the understanding 
of their proper roles. 

F. FAITH IN MODERN PROTESTANT THEOLOGY 

a) Karl Barth 

i) Rejection of natural Theology: The most powerful affirmation of faith as 
response to God's word comes from, K. Barth who reacts sharply against any form of 
'natural theology'. God's word stands in itself, and we know nothing of God except what 
He Himself tells us. True, the Word of God is addressed to human beings, but thereby it 
becomes in no way dependent on them, or accessible from any human or natural 
knowledge. 



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ii) Faith always remains God's free gift, and never becomes subject to human 
disposition. The content of faith never is the 'object' which can be studied, interpreted etc. 
as if it were handed over into the hands of human beings, or of the Church. "The concept 
'truths of revelation' in the sense of Latin propositions 'given and sealed once for all by 
divine authority in wording and meaning, is theologically impossible. 

b) Paul Tillich 

Faith is to accept oneself as accepted. (The courage to be, London 1952). Human 
being is accepted by God without reserve, as he or she is, as sinner. Their sins are 
condemned, but they are no obstacle for acceptance through God. God is absolute, 
forgiving love. This basic biblical truth must, however, be translated into existential 
language. Nothing is more destructive of human personality than not being accepted. The 
child already develops resentment, an attitude of hateful revenge, against anyone who 
rejects it: parents, school, etc. The securities (economic, social, and professional) point 
ultimately to the radical insecurity: human being's existence faced with death. Here is the 
human beings' ultimate concern, the problem of their very being. Faith means the 
acceptance of the ultimate meaning of existence, that we are accepted by God, and have 
life in Him. 



CHAPTER IX 
ACT OF FAITH 

We shall begin by analyzing the act of faith as an act of personal relationship 
which implies a total dedication of the human person to God. We shall see it as a process 
by which: human persons link their life with the life of God through Christ, for it is 
through Christ God communicates to us personally. 

I. FAITH, AN ACT OF PERSONAL ENCOUNTER. 

It is true that we are dealing here with a relationship that is unique. It cannot be 
compared to any personal relationship that exists in the created order of things. And yet 
we apply also here the law of analogy. In order to understand the human-divine 
relationship it is necessary to explore the working of human personal relationship and 
then from there analogically to apply to the supernatural field of faith. For this reason we 
shall first deal with the personal relationship that exists in the act of human faith. 

A. Personal relationship in the act of human faith In order to understand the true 
meaning of faith in human relationship it is necessary to understand the different meaning 
of 'credere ' or 'to believe' . 

a) Personal faith and opinion: In the ordinary language 'to believe' can signify 
many things. Sometimes it means nothing but an opinion that is more or less founded on 
reality. Thus e.g., we believe that the weather will be good tomorrow. In this case 'to 
believe' is more like an act that is based on a guess. It is an opinion. When we say, on the 



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other hand, to our mother: 'I believe you' this word 'believe' has quite a different meaning. 
In this case I accept the truth on the testimony of my mother, of a person. This cannot be 
reduced to an opinion based on a guess. Here the foundation of our belief is a person. . 

b) Personal faith and knowledge based on testimony: The knowledge that is based 
on testimony is had when logical conclusion is drawn from many premises. This 
conclusion will give us the persuasion that the affirmation of someone is true. In the case 
of personal faith, the importance is given not to the arguments that prove the statement of 
somebody true, but to the very person of the individual that makes the statement. Hence 
we can have two different objects of faith in an act of personal faith: the primary object 
is the person and the secondary object is the affirmation of the person. But these two 
objects do not form two different objects artificially put together. The secondary object 
depends very much on the primary. We accept the statement of a person because we 
believe the person. 

B. The different types of personal faith. We shall distinguish here three types of personal 
faith: 

a) Personal faith in the unknown persons: This is very little different from the 
knowledge that one has from testimony. Here we do not search into the validity of a 
statement through a process of elaborate investigation. We accept the affirmation of the 
person by mere intuition of the person. This kind of faith is had only in matters that are of 
little importance, and in matters in which an absolute certainty is not required by its very 
nature. 

b) Personal faith in known persons: This is the faith that we place in colleagues, 
and collaborators. Here we have greater intuition of persons and we are dealing with 
more important matters. Here by act of faith the individual is more guided by the 
knowledge of the persons and their ability to tell the truth. 

c) Personal faith in those who love each other: This is the highest grade of 
personal faith. This is found between mother and son, friend and friend, husband and 
wife. Here the primary object of faith is the person, and secondary object is what the 
person reveals about oneself 

C. The elements that constitute an act of personal human faith 

a) Faith and knowledge of the person: The knowledge that we have of the person 
influences very much the object of our faith. We shall not be able to describe a person 
adequately to another. It is more a matter of intuition. This knowledge is the result of a 
vital union between us and the person, a reality which our words will not be able to 
express properly. It, in a certain sense, transcends all the conceptual categories. It is a 
matter of experience. It is intuitive knowledge and it precedes the act of faith. This 
intuitive knowledge of the person influences our certitude. Certainly this certitude is 
different from the one that we have from a syllogism. 

b) The act of faith: The act of faith is based on the intuitive knowledge of the 
person. I accept the person and affirm his or her personality in its relationship to me. I 
believe the person. I affirm the truth basing myself on the person. 



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D. The structure of a supernatural personal act of faith: 

Faith establishes a relationship between the human person and the three Persons 
of the Holy Trinity. Here we can distinguish two elements in the act of faith: first, the act 
by which the human person recognizes himself as related to God; secondly the response 
of human persons to this God who is constitutively related to them. 

a) The act of faith as an act of recognition of God: faith as a gift of God. We can 
establish the existence of other human beings independently of our relationship to them. 
But I cannot posit God outside of my relationship to Him, for this relationship is 
constitutive of my very being. I come upon God as the ground of my being. Faith in the 
first instance consists in recognizing this basic reality of my very being and existence. 
This recognition itself is a gift from God Left to ourselves we are absolutely incapable of 
knowing God in a way adequate for our salvation. "Non one can come to me unless 
drawn by the Father who sent me" (John 6: 44). "No one can say 'Jesus is Lord' except by 
the Holy Spirit (1 Cor 12:3). 

b) The act of faith as an act of response to God. Response differs from answer. 
The former is to a person, while the latter need not to be a person; it can be to a question 
which may be impersonal. We can distinguish the following elements in this action of 
response: 

i) Faith is an act of obedience to God: This is found in the classical example of 
faith (in Abraham and in Mary Gen 22:1-22; Lk 1: 26-38). For Paul too, it is an act of 
obedience (Rom 1: 5; 16: 26). This becomes clear when we present faith in its relationship 
to the Word of God. It is a highly efficacious word, which affects the totality of the 
human beings in all the aspects of their existence. Therefore, faith is the coming into 
contact with the Word of God and the whole of life of the human person. 

ii) This contact is a free act: It is the manifestation of that radical act of obedience 
of the free children of God which the human person owes to God. It is, therefore, solidly 
based on profound interpersonal relationship. We obey because we are related to the 
person of God in His fundamental relationship with us. 

iii) Faith implies trust: Faith, we saw in our biblical exposition, is an act of trust 
in God. 

III. FAITH, A FULLY HUMAN ACT 

The essence of faith consists in human being's personal response to God who has 
revealed Himself to us. The motive of this response and consequent commitment is God 
Himself, His absolute authority. We have to analyze this response of the human person 
more closely. In the first place it must be a truly human act, namely, an act in which 
human intelligence and human will operate. Then we shall consider it from the point of 
view of God. Faith is both human and divine. We must recognize in the act of faith, the 
action of the human will that cooperates with the divine grace. Finally, our response is to 
a God who revealed Himself with a view to build up His Kingdom. This will lead us to 
the understanding of our response in terms of the commitment of faith in the context of 
human life; otherwise it remains isolated and irrelevant for people at large. 



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A. Faith and Human Intelligence 

Scripture demands absolute obedience to God because God has spoken. Still, 
Scripture always puts this demand into the concrete context of human life so that human 
response is justified and in case the human beings reject God's revelation, they are 
without excuse (Rom l:20j. We shall see in what sense is our act of faith a reasonable 
act. 

a) FAITH, AN ACT OF THE INTELLECT STATICALLY CONSIDERED - 
FAITH A REASONABLE ACT 

i) What does the term 'reasonable mean when applied to faith? 

'Reasonable' must be carefully distinguished from 'rational'. The term 'rational' 
means that we accept a truth on evidence, given us by the truth that is accepted. In this 
case we would have 'science'. When we say that our faith is reasonable we mean: that it is 
not something against his nature, that the human persons who make an act of faith know 
the reason why they give their assent, that they give their assent regarding a truth on 
divine authority. This divine authority need not necessarily be manifested externally; it 
can also be internal; God can cause in us the certainty of His personal intervention by 
means of internal illumination. 

ii) The basic truth which must be established before our faith can be reasonable: 
(The preambles o/ faith) 

a) The existence of God. This is the philosophical preamble. But it is not 
necessary that one arrives at this truth philosophically. Though the Scripture always 
supposes God's existence, it still teaches the possibility of finding God from the created 
world (Rom 1:18-20). 

b) The fact of revelation. This is theological preamble. Scripture does not demand 
the irrational assent to revelation, but offers proofs which make its acceptance justifiable. 
This is the case in the OT, mainly in Exodus, where Moses' mission is supported by 
miracles, and where the entire work of liberation is presented as God's sovereign and 
saving action in history, before the eyes of the people themselves and of the nations. The 
same is the case in the NT in the miracles of Jesus, and in the early church. We recall to 
mind the significance of miracles for the faith of the disciples: 

From the miracles certitude of the fact of revelation is derived: Jesus himself 
considers the miracles as proofs of his divine mission. He tells the delegates of John the 
Baptist to report to him the miracles they have seen (Mt 11:4; see also Jn 5:36). The 
evangelists consider the miracles as proofs (Jn 20:30f). 

These signs are necessary in the actual order of salvation because they confront 
us with the necessity of choice and commitment (Jn 10:37; 15:24). From these texts it 
appears that without signs there would be no responsibility and guilt on the part of the 
Jews; thus miracles are necessary to put us before the challenge of faith. 

The disciples do find faith on account of the signs: Nathaniel is struck by Jesus' 
intimate knowledge o/his thoughts (Jn 1: 49). The apostles begin to believe in Cana (Jn 
2:11). Nicodemus believes because 'no one can do these signs that you do unless God is 
with him' (Jn 3:2). 



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iii) Doctrine of the Church about the rational foundations of Faith. 

a) Before Vatican I: The censures ofBautain and Bonnetty An explicit statement 
is found in "Qui Plurihus" 1846 (CF 110) "Religion derives all its strength from the 
authority of God who has spoken: it can neither be deduced, nor perfected by human 
reason. Now that it shall not go astray in such an important matter, human reason must 
closely study divine revelation so as to attain thereby certainty that God has spoken, and 
to render Him rational worship..." Here in general terms the task is assigned to reason, to 
discern divine revelation. The problem is, however, explicitly taken up in Vatican I. 

b) The doctrine of Vatican L The intention of the Council is to state the objective 
value of exterior arguments, mainly miracles, against those who base religion merely on 
subjective criteria, i.e. on religious experience. Only indirectly something is also said 
about the way in which the human persons perceive these arguments, viz. that they can 
do so by reason, without the aid of special grace. This is the text of the definition: "In 
order that the obedience of our faith might be in harmony with reason, God willed that to 
the inner helps of the Holy Spirit there should be joined exterior proofs of His revelation, 
to wit, divine facts, and especially miracles and prophecies, which as they manifestly 
display the omnipotence and infinite knowledge 'of God, are most certain proofs of his 
divine revelation, adapted to the intelligence of all men." (CF 11 9). Defined is in this text 
that there exist divine facts (miracles) which are arguments, distinct from the inner 
illumination of the Spirit. Implied is in this text, as conclusion, (hence theologically 
certain) the fact that these arguments are necessary to make the act of faith reasonable. 
Implied is secondly that reason can perceive these arguments because they are said to be 
"adapted to the intelligence of all men" 

c) After Vatican I 

In the oath against Modernism (1910) the rational arguments for faith are re- 
stated, with the explicit insistence that they are accessible to reason: "I recognize the 
exterior proofs of revelation, that is to say, divine works, mainly miracles and prophecies, 
as sure signs of the divine origin of the Christian religion and I hold that they are well 
adapted to the understanding of all ages and of all people, also those of the present time" 
(CF 143/2). 

.'Humani Generis' (1950) takes up Vatican I and adds that the arguments are 
accessible to reason even unaided by grace: "We are provided by God with such a wealth 
of wonderful exterior signs by which the divine origins of the Christian religion can be 
proved with certainty even to the natural light of reason alone" (CF 146). It continues, 
however, that man, blinded by prejudice or passion, is able to disregard the evidence. 

iv) Theological Reflection 

The miracles of the past, and the persistent miracle of the Church, are signs of the 
divine action and thus proofs of the divine origin of revelation. Can we discover the 
divine action in history by mere reason? Certainly, but for the full understanding of God's 
action we need the light of faith. Only the believer can grasp the full meaning of Christ 
and his Church. 

The Psychological factors leading to, or preventing faith are very important. 
'Humani Generis' stresses their influence. We must acknowledge that any acceptance of 
truth comes much more from an inner affinity to it, than from external argumentation. A 



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human being comes to Christ not on the basis of arguments, but because he or she 
realizes that in him they find the meaning of their existence. 

Once we admit that the 'proofs' for the credibility of revelation can be effective 
only where there is an openness to truth, we are able (with Newman, Grammar of Assent) 
to examine also the nature of these arguments. They are not 'mathematical'; rather are 
they meant to bring about the closer contact with the revealed reality itself They have 
their parallel in the proof of human relations: I shall prove that someone is truly my 
friend not by a syllogism, but by a number of details, each of which is not a stringent 
argument, yet their accumulation brings about true evidence: deeds, words, reactions etc. 
It is not through the numerical addition of many such probabilities that I come to 
certitude, but through their convergence. "He who is of God, hears the words of God, the 
reason why you do not hear them is that you are not of God" (Jn 8:47). 

b) FAITH, AN ACT OF THE INTELLECT, DYNAMICALLY CONSIDERED - 
AN ACT OF INTELLECTUAL ASSENT 

We are not saying that the act of faith is reduced to a mere intellectual assent: but 
we only say that in the complex structure of the act of faith intellectual assent is included. 
We do not say that the act of faith is identified with an act of intellectual affirmation, but 
we only want to say that this intellectual affirmation is implied in it. 

i) In the Holy Scripture 

In the OT faith is understood not only as an act of trust in the divine promises and 
as an act of obedience to divine commandments, but also as knowledge of determined 
events revealed by God. (Gen 15:2-6; Ex 3:1-22; 4: 1-9; 4: 28-31; Is 43:10-12). 

In the NT faith is the acceptance of the Kerygma. It is described as 'hear the 
message of the Good News and become believers' (Act 15: 7); 'many of the Corinthians 
who heard Paul became believers' (Act 18: 5,8). It is true that in the Synoptics the faith 
that is required by Jesus is more the trust in Him and in His power to work miracles; but 
it does not exclude the intellectual acceptance of truth (Mk 16: 15,16). Paul considers 
faith intimately connected with justification and salvation. And yet he manifests the 
intellectual aspect of faith in various ways (Rom 10:9; IThess 4:14; Phil 2:10,11; Rom 
6:8). To become a Christian is to arrive at the knowledge of truth (1 Tim 2:4). In John we 
have a greater stress of the intellectual aspect of faith than in Paul. John writes his Gospel 
in order that we may believe (Jn 20: 31). For John 'to believe' is 'to know the truth' (Jn 8: 
32). 

ii) Tradition 

1) In Liturgy: Profession of faith was demanded of the Catechumens before they 
received Baptism. 

2) In the Profession of faith: The Church proposed from the beginning as the 
object of faith determined truths, expressed in formulas and the Christians professed their 
faith by pronouncing these determined formulas. This is evident from the various 
formulas of faith in the NT. e.g. Acts 2:14-19; ICor 15:3-5,11 and various creeds. 

3) The Doctrine of the Fathers 

St. Justin "Whoever is persuaded and believes as true what we teach...". Clement 
of Alexandria defines faith as a pious assent that is given to the divine mysteries. Faith is 
knowledge whose object is God, revealing Himself to us in Christ. Origen calls 



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Christianity a doctrine. St. Basil defines faith as 'an assent without doubt about those 
things which have been heard". Tertul/ian calls faith: 'regula fidei', 'doctrina fidei', 
'Veritatis regula'. St. Augustine says that faith is nothing else but to think with assent. 

iii) The Doctrine of the Church 

The Council of Trent places the act of faith as the first among those acts which 
dispose human beings for justification. This act of faith is described as follows: "Adults 
are disposed to that justice, when awakened and assisted by divine grace, they conceive 
faith from hearing, and are freely led to God, believing to be true what has been divinely 
revealed and promised, especially that the sinner is justified by God's grace, through the 
redemption that is in Christ Jesus' (CF 1930). 

The Doctrine of I Vatican Council is directly meant against the Rationalists, but 
indirectly it was also meant against all those who deny the religious value of faith, as an 
intellectual act: "This faith which is the beginning of man's salvation, is a supernatural 
virtue whereby, inspired and assisted by the grace of God, we believe that the things 
which He was revealed are true; not because the intrinsic truth of the things viewed by 
the natural light of reason, but because of the authority of God himself who reveals them, 
and who can neither be deceived, nor deceive" (CF 1 1 8). 

c) THE MOTIVE OF INTELLECTUAL ASSENT: THE DIVINE TESTIMONY 

Here we can distinguish two things: our intellectual assent as an act of 
commitment to God; then we shall see that this act of commitment is solidly based on the 
knowledge and truthfulness of God Himself and also on the fact of God speaking to us 
through revelation. God is the ultimate foundation of our assent. His speech is in perfect 
agreement with His intelligence. 

d) THE OBJECTION OF FAITH 

Under the material object of faith we understand all that is to be accepted in the 
act of faith. It apparently consists of main 'truths' which, however, have the common 
element, that they are formally revealed, that is, objectively contained in the revelation 
and reaching us through Scripture and Tradition. We do however admit that a truth 
formally revealed may be contained in the sources not explicitly ; i.e. expressed in the 
words of the testimony, but only implicitly . It is included in revelation as the tree in the 
seeds, not yet unfolded. Examples are the Marian dogmas of Immaculate Conception and 
Assumption. They are formally revealed, but not explicitly. 

Formally revealed t ruths stand in contrast to virtually revealed t ruths: whatever is 
deduced from revealed truths by means of rational conclusion (e.g. Trinitarian 
speculation). What is virtually revealed is not object of divine faith, yet it falls under the 
responsibility of the Church as it is closely related to faith and relevant for the 
preservation of the integrity of faith. Virtually revealed truths may become object of 
ecclesiastical faith, if proposed by the Church with absolute authority, but not of divine 
faith. Only formally revealed truths_constitute the object of divine faith. 

We cannot understand the Christian message as the collection of disconnected 
facts and truths. There is one history of salvation leading up to Christ; in it God reveals 



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and commits Himself to humankind. This revelation contains God's saving action for us. 
Hence faith consists in turning to God who through Christ reveals Himself as Saviour. 
This centre of faith we call the primary object of faith. 

C. Faith, As an Act of Human Will: Freedom of Faith 

The act of faith is a free act of the human will. The act of faith is an act of the 
deepest and most personal decision of the human person. God's causality does not destroy 
human causality and responsibility, but makes it really possible. In faith the human 
beings freely and fully dispose themselves; they give up their stand on their own 
foundations and their reliance on their own possibilities, and accept the meaning of their 
whole existence from God only. This is the meaning of freedom in the act of faith. 

a) What is freedom? 

Freedom can be described in a negative sense as the absence of every influence 
which could determine the action of the human person. Such influence can be from 
outside: physical coercion, or moral pressure which inspires undue fear; it may also come 
from within as a psychic urge which leads one to certain actions perhaps even without 
one's being aware of such influences. The act of faith demands full freedom. In fact the 
Church insists on the freedom of anyone who embraces the faith (Ad Gentes n. 13). 
Hence the positive meaning of freedom consists in the human being's capacity to 
determine oneself, from within, and thus to decide the meaning of one's own life. The 
human person is the only creature who is able to do so. All others are determined by 
either exterior factors or by their own nature. The human being is the only one who acts 
on his or her own. This puts a heavy responsibility on us which we cannot escape (Sartre 
says: man is condemned to freedom). This, however, is human being's unique dignity; 
hence the Bible presents the entire work of salvation as liberation: "For freedom Christ 
has set us free" (Gal 5: 1). The freedom of faith was denied by Calvin on the basis of his 
doctrine on predestination. On the Catholic side, Hermes denied the freedom of real 
faith, i.e., of the 'fides rationis'. He admitted freedom only for t\\Q fides cordis which 
implies the free submission under God's word though it be not understood. 

The Gospel is offered for our free choice, mainly in Mk 16:16: "He who believes 
and is baptized will be saved, but he who does not believe will be condemned". We have 
here the New Testament continuation of the theme of Deuteronomy: "I have set before 
you this day life and good, death and evil" (Deut.30: 15.) In all these texts the freedom of 
the human person concerns immediately the act of faith, not only the remote disposition 
for it; the human person who is confronted with the Gospel must decide. Clement of 
Alexandria includes freedom in the definition of faith: "Faith is the assent of the free 
mind" (Stromateis 2:2, 8, 4) 

In fact, in faith we make the most radical decision of our freedom, as it disposes 
not only of some partial aspect of our life, but of some definite action about concerning 
ourselves. It is our pastoral duty to make the faithful aware of this radical decision which 
they have made in accepting their faith and in renewing it. 



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CHAPTER X 
QUALITIES OF FAITH 

1. GIFT OF GOD 

God 'graces' what he creates: he does not, in giving grace, interfere with, or 
revise, or cancel out his creation; rather, he fulfils it ..; reason is most realized as reason 
and most fulfilled when God's grace enables it to penetrate beyond this proper sphere (of 
creation) and guide us towards union with God. So God's gift can only make me into "an 
enhanced version of myself. An analysis of the act of faith reveals the role of divine 
grace in the act of faith and consequently the nature of faith as a gift of God. The most 
that reason can do, through a study of the preambles of faith, is to lead a person to the 
point of admitting: 'I ought to believe', 'it is reasonable to believe'. 

From here to the confession, 'I do believe in God who has revealed himself in 
Jesus', it is a leap of faith which can only be made under the divine impulse or inward 
witness of the Holy Spirit by which God attracts a person to himself: "the Spirit of truth, 
who proceeds from the Father, he will bear witness to me" (Jn 15:26), and "no one can 
say 'Jesus is Lord' except by the Holy Spirit" (1 Cor 12:3; see also Eph 2:8). The ultimate 
motive of faith is the divine testimony. The signs of divine revelation (e.g. miracles), as 
known solely by the light of reason, are not the motive or cause of faith. When Peter 
professed his faith in Jesus as the Christ, the Son of the living God, he did not receive this 
"from flesh and blood", but from "my Father who is in heaven" (Mt 16:17; see also Gal 
1.16). 

For this reason the Council of Orange (529) asserted: "If anyone says that the 
increase as well as the beginning of faith and the very desire of faith, proceeds from our 
own nature and not from a gift of grace, namely from an inspiration of the Holy Spirit 
changing our will from unbelief to belief . . . such a one reveals oneself in contradiction 
with the apostolic doctrine" (CF 1917). In fact no one can believe in God "unless first 
reached by the grace of the divine mercy" (CF 1921; likewise Boniface II (CF 399) and 
the Council of Trent (CF 1953). 

A decisive role is played by the inward illumination of grace. When interior grace 
draws a person towards God, he/she enters confidently into contact/communion with 
personal and transcendent truth. One gives oneself to God, who communicates himself to 
one and draws one to himself As St Augustine said, the believer is drawn willingly and 
with delight. Thus Paul preached in Philippi to a group of women, among whom was one 
Lydia. But "the Lord opened her heart to give heed to what was said by Paul" (Acts 
16:14). The exterior witness (Jn 2:11; 5.33) has to be supported by the interior witness of 
the Spirit (Jn 6:37, 44-45; Mt 11:25-27), if it is to culminate in the act of faith. So God 
reveals and communicates himself to the person by this attraction to himself, and the 
person knows God non-conceptually through the experience of the actual ordination to 
God. 



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Vatican II clarifies the point: "one cannot give one's adherence to God revealing 
himself unless the Father draws him to offer to God the reasonable and free submission 
of faith. . . If this faith is to be shown, the grace of God and the interior help of the Holy 
Spirit must precede and assist, moving the heart and turning it to God, opening the eyes 
of the mind, and giving joy and ease to everyone in assenting to the truth and believing 
it" (DH 10 & DV 5). Also St Thomas Aquinas showed how, in faith, the human intellect 
and will cooperate with divine grace: "Believing is an act of the intellect assenting to the 
divine truth by command of the will moved by God through grace" (quoted in CCC, n. 
155). So we may say that God both speaks the revealing word and creates the response 
(like an echo) to this word in a person's heart. If faith is the starting point and the 
permanent foundation of the life of grace, it is to be expected that faith itself would be of 
the same gratuitous nature. 

2. DARKNESS. OF FAITH 

The more one advances in spiritual knowledge, the more one realizes that all the 
symbols and concepts which stand for God are only analogous, that God is beyond them 
all, never to be within our grasp, for he "dwells in unapproachable light" (1 Tm 6.16). 
This is part of the "dark night" which mystics enter in the course of their spiritual 
journey. "He cannot be reached by much thinking... He is higher than the highest 
thoughts, in truth above all thought" (Katha Upanishad, 2). And Thomas Aquinas states: 
"concerning God, we cannot grasp what he is, but only what he is not, and how other 
beings stand in relation to him" (quoted in CCC, n. 43). In the same sense St Augustine: 
"If you have understood, it is not God." The Book of Job lays the accent on the 
inscrutability of God, which is the reason for the prohibition of making any graven image 
(Ex 20:4). It is part of our present condition that "for now we see in a mirror dimly. ... for 
we walk by faith, not by sight" (1 Cor 13:12; 2 Cor 5:7; see also: 1 In4:12;Heb. 11.1; Jn 
20:29). Against Rationalism, Vatican I affirmed that the divine mysteries "remain 
covered by the veil of faith itself and shrouded as it were in darkness..." (CF 132). 

The darkness of faith is due to the fact that God himself and the truth revealed 
about him remain the inscrutable mystery; also the fact of revelation remains obscure, 
because it comes to us only in words and deeds, i.e. in signs and symbols which both 
reveal and veil the reality for which they stand. Furthermore, as the Catholic Catechism 
explains: "The world we live in often seems very far from the one promised us by faith. 
Our experiences of evil and suffering, injustice, and death, seem to contradict the Good 
News. They can shake our faith and become a temptation against it" (CCC n. 164). The 
obscurity of faith can arouse anxiety in the believer, especially in the face of objections. 
Yet, as Cardinal Newman said: 'Ten thousand difficulties do not make one doubt" (ibid, 
n. 157). If doubt is still possible it is not only due to the darkness of faith, but also due to 
the human person's freedom and innate instinct of self-reliance. After all, faith is a 
personal encounter based on freedom. In fact, in faith man makes the most radical 
decision of his freedom, as he disposes not only of some partial aspect of his life, some 
definite action, but of his very self (he has to "lose" himself). Like any gift, also the 
priceless gift of faith can also be lost: "By rejecting conscience, certain persons have 
made shipwreck of their faith" (1 Tim 1:19). 



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3. CERTITUDE OF FAITH 

The assent of faith is absolutely certain, because it is based on God's authority, 
who can neither deceive nor be deceived. It is also absolutely firm, because it is 
supported by divine grace. The certainty of faith is of quite a different nature from that 
proper to philosophic or scientific knowledge. For it is based neither on the obvious truth 
of revelation, which remains essentially mysterious, nor on any direct evidence of the fact 
of revelation. Yet, the paradox is that faith is absolutely certain. It is not because the 
believer sees the truth of the mystery that he/she accepts divine revelation. The absolute 
certainty of faith must be placed in the inward illumination of grace. The Catholic 
Catechism clarifies: "To be sure, revealed truths can seem obscure to human reason .and 
experience, but 'the certainty that the divine light gives is greater than that which the light 
of natural reason gives' [Thomas Aquinas]" (CCC n. 157). From this point of view it may 
be said that faith is more certain than all human knowledge (ibid.) 

4. COMMUNITARIAN, INHERITED AND PERSONALIZED 

"Faith comes from what is heard" (Rom 10:17). It must be received. Faith may be 
a personal act, but that does not make it an isolated act: "No one can believe alone, just as 
no one can live alone. You have not given yourself faith as you have not given yourself 
life. The believer has received faith from others and should hand it on to others. .. I 
cannot believe without being carried by the faith of others, and by my faith I help support 
others in the faith" (CCC n. 166). The Christian accepts the faith of the Church which is 
always greater and more comprehensive than that of any individual, because the faith of 
the Church has been given the whole time, from Christ till the end of history, for its 
experience and development. This is humbling but also liberating, because thereby I can 
have greater share in the fullness of the whole faith. This is what is implied in "believing 
the Church". 

In fact all the sacraments are meant to be, as far as possible, community 
celebrations. In this way the role which the Church plays in our faith life is brought out 
more clearly. The sacraments "not only presuppose faith, but by words and objects they 
also nourish, strengthen, and express it; that is why they are called' sacraments of faith'" 
(SC 59). All this is very much in keeping with the social nature of the human person: "It 
has not pleased God to call people to share his life merely as individuals without any 
mutual bonds. Rather, he wills to mould them into a people in whom his sons, once 
scattered abroad, can be gathered together (Cfr Jn 1 1 :52)" (AG 2; also LG 9). 

Thus we see that God comes to us through others and draws us together. The 
Catholic Catechism sums up: "'Believing' is an ecclesial act. The Church's faith precedes, 
engenders, supports, and nourishes our faith. The Church is the mother of all believers" 
(CCC n. 181). For this reason the Fathers of the Church often described the Church as 
'mother'. In baptism she becomes the mother of catechumen's and presents them as 
children to the Father (Tertullian; cf Gal 4:19, 26). Hence she may be called "mother 
forever in labour" (St Methodius). Several Fathers remark that she nourishes us at her 
breasts with the milk of faith. The Church may also be called our spiritual motherland. 



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for she provides a spiritual atmosphere in which she trains us and moulds our spiritual 
life. This she does through the scriptures, her liturgy and teaching, the way of life she 
inculcates and the examples of the saints. 

Through a process of personal appropriation the believer is expected to grow in 
the life of faith. This process may be compared to the growth of a person in society. One 
is born into a human society and has to depend, in daily life, on the collective experience 
of family and people, while oneself growing into one's own responsibility. Likewise the 
life of faith is first accepted from the community, but then must be appropriated in a 
personal manner, according to one's ability and "according to the measure of faith which 
God has assigned him" (Rom. 12.3). It is vital that the religious knowledge of the faithful 
keep pace with their advance in the secular sciences. Therefore Vatican II "hoped that 
many lay persons will receive an appropriate formation in the sacred sciences, and that 
some will develop and deepen these studies by their own labours" (GS 62). 

Prayer is perhaps the most important expression of and testimony to faith. It is 
also through prayer that we nourish the life of faith, which is not a mere intellectual 
assent but a personal commitment and a living communion in which God shares his life 
with humans. The life in God's presence and in communion with him transforms the 
believer's way of life and of relating to others. One might know all theology and yet be an 
unbeliever. The unbelieving Jews knew much about Jesus, yet they missed the inner 
meaning of his person and mission. The decisive difference from the believer is the 
latter's realization of a personal communion. This realization of belonging to God and 
being accepted by him is basic to the life of faith. It follows that an unlettered person may 
be more deeply rooted in the life of faith than a scholar. As the believer grows in the life 
of faith, he experiences his acts as done in union with God and as a concrete expression 
of his relation to God. It is this life of faith which confers on the believer, not simply new 
objects of knowledge, but a new way of understanding and seeing things. For example, a 
child may not know more facts about his parents than an outsider. Yet the child, sharing 
as he does in the family life, 'knows' his parents in a different way (Cf Rom 8.15; Gal 
4:6). Vatican II had in mind a comprehensive growth of the laity in this life of faith: 
"from the very beginning of their formation the laity should gradually and prudently learn 
how to view, judge, and do all things in the light of faith" (AA 29). 



CHAPTER XI 
FAITH AND SALVATION 

After considering the nature and qualities of the act of faith, we speak about its 
place in the order of salvation. We begin with the general statement that faith is necessary 
for salvation, as this need is stressed in the whole of Scripture and tradition. We have 
then to consider the problem of those who leave the Church and the salvation of those 
who profess other faiths. 



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1. THE NECESSITY OF FAITH FOR SALVATION 

By 'faith' we understand here the "act of faith" or the faith commitment. The 
necessity of which we speak is not mere necessity of a precept (necessitas praecepti) 
from which there could be a dispensation, but that of a means (necessitas medii) which is 
absolutely required. Faith has an irreplaceable function within the process of justification 
and salvation. 

A. Scripture 

a) From the Synoptics we have the authoritative text of Mk 16:16: "He who 
believes and is baptized will be saved". The text speaks about faith in the strict sense, i.e., 
the response to the preaching of the Apostles: Those who reject it are condemned. Thus 
faith is necessary. The rejection here is understood obviously in the sense of ill will and 
hence sinful. We have to see later what happens to those who do not believe in Christ, but 
are in good faith. 

b) Most important is St. Paul's testimony. Justification through faith belongs to 
the center of his message. The human beings cannot be saved through any power of their 
own, but only through God in Jesus, and this saving grace can be accepted by them only 
through faith. Hence from the point of view of the human beings, faith, in contrast to any 
works of the law, is the way of salvation. All self glory of the human person is excluded, 
"on the principle of works? No, but on the principle of faith. For we hold that a man is 
justified by faith (pistei) apart from the works of the law" (Rom 3:28f.). 'Pistei' is an 
instrumental dative, and means causality. It stands in contrast to the works of the law 
which, in the opinion of the Jews, had been the cause of justice. The same is said from 
the point of view of God. In the same context, Paul says that both, the Jews and the 
Gentiles, without any distinction are saved, according to God's disposition, only by faith: 
"God is one, and He will justify the circumcised on the ground of their faith and the 
uncircumcised through their faith" (Rom. 3: 30). Hence, from the point of view of the 
Apostle, he has to preach the Gospel: "I am not ashamed of the Gospel; it is the power of 
God for salvation for everyone who has faith, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For 
in it the righteousness of God is revealed through faith, for faith, as it is written: The one 
who is righteous, will live by faith" (Rom l:16f). Abraham is the example of faith; he 
was accepted by God: "Abraham believed in God and it was reckoned to him as 
righteousness" (Rom 4:3; Gen 15:6). We conclude: according to St. Paul, objective 
redemption is through faith, which means by the human person opening himself or 
herself totally to God, relinquishing their self-reliance, and having their glory only in 
God. 

c) Heb 11: 6 contains the most explicit statement on the necessity of faith: 
"Without faith it is impossible to please God, for whoever would draw near to God must 
believe that He exists and that He rewards those who seek Him". The context is 
significant: It speaks of the need for endurance and patience even if the fulfillment of the 
promises is delayed. Hence the examples of faith are those who did not fail in the trial of 
their faith. 

d) St. John also has very decisive formulas: "He who believes in him is not 
condemned; he who does not believe, is condemned already, because he has not believed 



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in the name of the only Son of God" (3:18). "Truly I say to you he who hears my word 
and believes him who sent me has eternal life: he does not come into judgment, but has 
passed from death to life" (5:24). Eternal life comes from faith. "He who believes in the 
Son has eternal life; he who does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God 
rests upon him" (3:36). Through faith the human person is linked with God, is born anew 
from God, and conquers the world. "This is the victory that overcomes the world, our 
faith" (IJn 5:4). 

B. From the Fathers 

a) In Christ alone there is salvation. Hence faith in Christ is needed to receive 
salvation. Tertullian: "There is one sure thing that is established by Christ: that the 
nations must believe..." Origen quotes Celsius who ridicules the various religious sects 
each of which demands faith in their prophets. "Jesus is the only one of whom it is 
preached all over the world that he came as Son of God into this life". 

b) Similarly, in the subjective sphere, faith is needed for salvation. Against the 
Pelgaian idea of man's own possibility Augustine demands that also faith itself be 
attributed to God, not to man's possibilities or merits, and in this context he describe faith 
as that "from which all justice begins". "No one is saved from damnation except through 
faith in Jesus Christ". The strongest formulas come from Augustine's disciple Fw/gewriwi': 
"Faith is the foundation of all good; it is the beginning of human salvation... without it no 
one can find the grace of justification in this world, nor will he find life everlasting in the 
world to come". 

c. The doctrine of the Church 

It is expressed primarily in the Council of Trent. Faith has its prominent place in 
the process of justification. St. Paul's idea of justification through faith is authentically 
interpreted: "When the apostle says that the human person is justified' through faith' and 
'gratuitously' , these words are to be understood in the sense in which the Catholic Church 
has held and declared them with uninterrupted unanimity, namely, that we are said to be 
justified through faith because 'faith is the beginning of human being's salvation', the 
foundation and root of all justification, without which it is impossible to please God and 
to come into the fellowship of his sons" (CF 193 5). Here the Council speaks of the act of 
faith 0ides qua). It is the foundation of all justice, the beginning of justification. The 
Tridentine Council defines the necessity of faith for salvation (ND 118, 122). 

Vatican II insists on the point: In 'Lumen Gentium' n. 14: "In explicit terms He 
himself (Christ) affirmed the necessity of faith and baptism (Mk 16:16; Jn 3:5)". The 
Mission decree n.7 takes up the text of Lumen Gentium, and bases on it the sacred duty 
of the church" to preach the Gospel, Hence missionary activity today as always retains its 
power and necessity". In the Decree on the Priestly Ministry n.4, the necessity of faith is 
stressed as the reason for the preaching of the word of God: "Since no one can be saved 
who has not first believed, priests as co-workers with their bishops, have as their primary 
duty the proclamation of the Gospel of God to all..." 



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2. CAN A CTHOLIC BE JUSTIFIED TO LEAVE THE CHURCH? 

A. The Problem 

A child grows and, in the secular sphere, advances in knowledge and 
maturity; also uneducated people grow in the breadth of experience through the contact 
with a pluralistic world. It is no longer possible for them to accept their faith simply on 
the basis of their parents' teaching, or the testimony of the priests. If under such 
conditions no possibility of further instruction is possible, can Christians be justified in 
giving up their faith? 

B. What do the Scriptures say about the problem? 

The problem is not primarily an intellectual one, but a question of loyalty to a 
commitment. Thus Timothy is asked to keep his faith and good conscience, and not to 
follow the example of others: "Certain persons have made shipwreck of their faith" (1 
Tim 1:19). The Epistle to the Hebrews speaks with grave warning of those who, after 
having received the faith, fall away, as there seems to be no remedy for them (Heb 6:4ff). 
Peter speaks harshly about those who return to the defilements of the world (2 Peter 2: 
21). 

C. The Teaching of Vatican I 

Faith is seen not merely as an intellectual assent, but as a pledge of union with 
God, which is supported by God's grace. Besides, for the believer, there is always the 
living argument of the Church. For both reasons, there can be no justification for a 
believer to leave the Church (CF 124). 

D. Open Questions. 

However, there remain some open questions: 

i) Whether the sin of the one who loses the faith is a fault of apostasy, or whether 
the fault lies perhaps somewhere else. "Desertion of God" may consist in the long 
negligence of deepening the knowledge of faith and its preambles; it may lie in a general 
revolt against inherited beliefs; it may be found in moral license etc. 

ii) Whether and how far it can be said about all Christians that they (as the text 
puts it) "have received the faith under the teaching authority of the Church". This 
probably can only be said about those who have been instructed properly, which often is 
not the case. Hence we conclude: 

As faith is the basis of the entire Christian life, it must not only be preserved, but 
also cultivated. This means not merely an intellectual study, but much more a spiritual 
growth in the living Church. The Christians must realize that through their faith- 
commitment, which is sealed in baptism, they are inserted into communion with Christ 
together with all the faithful, and in this communion of the Spirit, they are sons and 
daughters of God. We must, therefore, in order to preserve the faith of the faithful, 
deepen the realization of the life of the Church. The renewed idea of the Church more as 
'Mysterium' than as institution, more as communion than as legal structure, seems of vital 
significance for the life of faith in a time of overpowering secular forces. It will be one of 
the main pastoral concerns in the time to come to find the concrete expressions and 
structures required for this renewed realization of the Church as a true communion of 
faith, in the spirit of Jesus. 



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3. SAVING FAITH OUTSIDE THE CHURCH 

A. Biblical Perspective 

Scripture and tradition stress the necessity of faith for salvation; cf CF 122, 1935. 
Faith, without which it is impossible to please God (Heb 11:6), is a person's response to 
revelation. One is meant to attain to faith in the true God from "what is seen" (Heb 11:1- 
3), and so find salvation (Rom 1:21). This faith will correspond to the covenant in which 
one lives one's life. The Bible knows of two basic types of covenant, corresponding to the 
two forms of revelation, cosmic and historical. There is the cosmic covenant with Noah 
on the one hand, and the covenants with Abraham, Moses and Jesus on the other hand. 
The latter covenants do not abrogate the former, but rather confirm, explicate and elevate 
it. The covenant with Noah (Gen 9:8-17) is universal; in entering into the covenant, Noah 
represents his three sons, who are at the head of the diverse peoples of the world. This 
covenant is not only with the whole of humanity, but also with the whole cosmos (Gen 
9:10). It is "everlasting" and expresses God's permanent care for all (Sir 44:17-18; Is 
54:9). It is unilateral and is based on God's faithfulness (Jer 33:20). 

The Old Testament presents several models of this faith among non-Israelite 
people, some of whom were prophets or priests in their respective religious traditions. 
These are the 'holy pagans', to borrow the title of Danielou's book. It matters little that 
some of these figures may not be historical. It is quite clear that they are symbolic of the 
many people who have attained profound faith and sanctity, living in the Noah covenant, 
which for that reason qualifies as a covenant of grace. It is faith that made them righteous 
before God. From the earliest generations "people began to invoke the name of the Lord 
['Yahweh']"(Gen4:26). 

First among these is Abel whom Jesus called "the righteous one"; he is the first 
martyr (Mt 23:35); his death prefigures the sacrifice of Christ (Heb 12:24). "By faith 
Abel offered to a God a more acceptable sacrifice than Cain's. ... through his faith he still 
speaks" (Heb 11:4). Enoch was a Babylonian prophet. He is reputed to have become a 
teacher of the true God, in the midst of a world of idolatry and superstition. He "walked 
with God" (Gen 5:22, 24), and "was an example of repentance to all generations" (Sir 
44:16; see also Jude 14). Enoch was a man of deep faith for "he was attested as having 
pleased God; and without faith it is impossible to please him" (Heb 11:6). "Noah was 
found perfect and righteous" (Sir 44:17; Ez 14:14). He "found favour in the eyes of the 
Lord... was blameless...; Noah walked with God" (Gen 6:8-9). By faith he believed God's 
warning about events to come and "became an heir of the righteousness that is in 
accordance with faith" (Heb 11:7). He was also "a herald of righteousness" (2 Pt 2:5). Job 
was a native of Edom, an area held in particular contempt by Israel. He is clothed with 
righteousness (Job 29:14; Ez 14:14). His firm faith in God arises out of a deep experience 
of God whom he "sees" (Job 42:5). Balaam, though not a worshiper of Yahweh, receives 
from Yahweh genuine prophecies. The Ninevites had destroyed Israel, yet they are 
presented as better than Jonah the prophet of Israel, for they "believed God" (Jon 3:5); the 
same Hebrew expression is used for Abraham's faith, in Gen. 15.6. The whole episode is 
like a commentary in action on Ez 3:4-7: "many peoples of foreign speech and a hard 
language, whose words you cannot understand" are more receptive of God's word than 
the house of Israel. 

In the New Testament we see that God accepts the prayers of the Roman 



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centurion (Acts 10:4,31). In Athens Paul praises the religious spirit of the Greeks; 
however, the starting point of his discourse there is not any of the Greek gods, but the 
"unknown God" (Acts 17:23). 

B. Magisterium 

The condemnation of the following propositions of the Jansenists by the Holy 
Office (1690) and of Quesnel by Pope Clement XI (1713) clearly imply the possibility of 
saving faith among all peoples: "Pagans, Jews, heretics, and others of this kind receive no 
influence at all from Jesus Christ; hence one rightly concludes that their wills are naked 
and defenseless, totally lacking sufficient grace... No grace is granted outside the Church" 
(CF 2305, 2429). Between the two Vatican councils a shift of emphasis took place in the 
approach to faith. It was a shift away from content (intellectual element) to the inner 
attitude of surrender and obedience of the whole person to God (Cf Rom 2:6-16; Eph 
6:8; Mt 25:31-46). This surrender is exercised in the concrete events and tasks of life. By 
it, one is united with Jesus' own obedience unto death. Thus, after affirming that "by his 
incarnation the Son of God has united himself in some fashion with every person" and 
that "grace works in an unseen way" in the hearts of all people of good will, Vatican II 
recommends: "We ought to believe that the Holy Spirit in a manner known only to God 
offers to every person the possibility of being associated with this paschal mystery" (GS 
22). AG 7 acknowledges that God "can lead those inculpably ignorant of the Gospel to 
that faith without which it is impossible to please him". Salvation is possible for the 
followers of other religions, who "seek God" and "strive to do his will"; the help 
necessary for salvation is not denied to sincere non-believers "who strive to live a good 
life, thanks to his grace" (LG 16). 

E. Theological Reflection 

The teaching of the Church clearly implies that saving faith is found outside the 
Church, but does not elaborate its nature; this is left to theological reflection. We may say 
that the concept of faith, in so far as it is required for salvation, centres on the 'fides qua' 
i.e. on the personal commitment of faith. This commitment in its full meaning is the faith- 
answer to God who has spoken through Christ and implies membership in the 
communion of the faithful i.e. in the Catholic Church. But the material content of this 
commitment may, without fault of the believer, fall short of this fullness. In this case, 
man is not to be judged by the standards of the material object of his faith, but by the 
sincerity of his commitment that is inspired by grace. Salvation comes to man not by a 
mechanical application of Christ's merits, but through 'faith' in Jesus Christ to be sealed 
by baptism. Faith means more than the conceptual knowledge of and the notional assent 
to revealed truth. It means acceptance of Christ as Saviour, and readiness to share in his 
life, death and resurrection. Hence saving faith must express itself in the total orientation 
of man's life, and particularly in his union with Christ's saving obedience to his Father in 
the hour of death. Every moral decision of man, if oriented towards a last end, is an act of 
either obedience or disobedience to God and hence, of inner conformity with Christ or an 
alienation from him. 

The existence of saving faith among the followers of other religions does not 
detract from Christ's exclusiveness as the way of salvation. Rather, it shows that his 
hidden presence reaches much farther than formerly suspected. 



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F. Faith in Hinduism - sraddha and bhakti 

Implicit faith as means of salvation may be found anywhere in traditional 
religions, and in modem ideologies. Here we take up the question in which form implicit 
faith is expressed in traditional Hinduism. 

Hinduism is not a religious system of unified structure, but comprises many 
religious traditions and systems of thought. Still, it contains common basic attitudes and 
concepts, which in a general sense can be called traditional Hinduism. If we look for the 
way in which a Hindu could find salvation, we insist on the personal attitudes demanded 
by traditional Hinduism. We first speak about the universal attitude of personal 
engagement and dynamic commitment, found throughout the various systems of 
Hinduism, sraddha. I t is not connected with any doctrinal statements, but expresses the 
commitment to the path of salvation (marga), which one has chosen. We have, further, 
the devotedness to the personal God in worship and love - bhakti. W e do not say that 
these attitudes simply are equivalent to implicit faith. Still, the meaning of both of them, 
as expressed in the sources, shows that those who genuinely follow these attitudes may 
in. fact be guided by divine grace, through implicit faith, to their salvation. 

a) Sraddha 

The term goes back to Vedic times where it stands for the required disposition for 
the sacrifice. In order to be efficacious, the sacrifice must be performed with sraddha 
(Mund., 1,1,10). As the ritualistic outlook widens, sraddha becomes a general and essential 
inner attitude required for all spiritual pursuits. In Satapata Brahm. XI, 3,1 the question is 
asked: if there were no milk, rice, herbs, fruits, water, "wherewith wouldst thou sacrifice? 
Yajnyavalkya answers: "Then indeed there would be nothing whatsoever here, and yet 
there would be offered the truth in sraddha". This means that ultimately the inner attitude 
of sacrifice is essential, beyond all ritual performances. Sraddha leads to final salvation, 
even apart from sacrifices. 

Man can progress on a religious path only in so far as he enters upon it with his 
whole self, and allows himself to be drawn to his goal by his inner religious urge. This 
dynamism may be more or less pure, according to the nature of the individual. It may 
lead to different forms of practice, and to different objects of worship according to the 
disposition and knowledge of man. But in all its forms, sraddha is man's participation in 
the divine force that draws creatures to their last destiny. 

b) Bhakti 

More than sraddha, bhakti is important as an analogous concept of faith. Bhakti 
comes from the root bhaj with a double meaning: distribute, or share and participate in 
something. V.S.Apte gives for bhakti apart trom merely profane meanings; devotional 
attachment, loyalty, faithfulness; faith, belief, pious faith; reverence, service, worship, 
homage. In the definition usually the emotional element is stressed, because, against 
brahmanic ritualism and upanishadic intellectualism, the popular sects stressed the 
affective side of religion. But in its specific meaning it stands for adoring veneration, 
either in exterior cult, or in inner devotedness and total dedication. 



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